The Economics of Deforestation: The Example of Ecuador

The Economics of Deforestation: The Example of Ecuador

The Economics of Deforestation: The Example of Ecuador

The Economics of Deforestation: The Example of Ecuador

Synopsis

Following a survey of deforestation definitions, theories and empirical evidence, a case study of Ecuador provides a historical picture of factors affecting forest loss throughout different periods, regions and ecosystems.

Excerpt

The sight of newly logged rainforest or areas freshly cleared for slash‐ and-burn agriculture makes a dramatic impact on the visitor to the tropics. Indeed as these activities penetrate even further into the more remote and often hilly landscapes of tropical countries, they often cause serious local environmental degradation. But tropical rainforests are not stable pristine wilderness — as the popular media often portray them. They are highly dynamic ecosystems that have been subject to various forms of human-induced and natural disturbance for millenia. The rich biodiversity that is such a treasured attribute of rainforests has evolved in response to the constantly changing conditions in the forest. When large-scale patterns of land use are examined the issues look quite different. Selective logging and cycles of shifting cultivation have many of the characteristics of natural disturbance of forest systems. Within reasonable limits, and subject to certain controls, these activities are not inconsistent with the maintenance of many of the environmental values of forests. The real threat to these values comes from the permanent conversion of forests to agriculture and infrastructure. The studies described in this book provide valuable insights into the real nature of the threats to tropical forests. They help us to appreciate better the scale, relative importance and true social and environmental significance of the different human actions that lead to the modification of forests.

Tropical deforestation has now been at the centre of the environmental stage for two decades. The issue has generated intense emotion, lofty political commitments, a plethora of reports, plans and strategies and a surprisingly large allocation of international funding. Yet, disturbingly, it is doubtful if all this activity has had much impact on saving the forests. Even more surprising is the fact that we still have little knowledge of how much forest we are losing, where it is located and what type of forest it is. After twenty years of conservation effort we are still uncertain about the symptoms and have made little progress in properly diagnosing the cause of the problems.

The Inter-governmental Forum on Forests, the international negotiating mechanism established under the UN Commission for Sustainable Development to examine forest issues, has now recognized our ignorance of the real underlying causes of forest loss and degradation and is embarking upon a number of studies to examine the issues. The . . .

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