Academic journal article The Geographical Bulletin

Tropical Deforestation in the Ecuadorian Chocó: Logging Practices and Socio-Spatial Relationships

Academic journal article The Geographical Bulletin

Tropical Deforestation in the Ecuadorian Chocó: Logging Practices and Socio-Spatial Relationships

Article excerpt

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Recent research indicates that commercial and subsistence logging are implicated in environmental degradation ranging from local to global scale, and nowhere are these problems more severe than in the tropics (Walker 2004, Barraclough and Ghimire 2000). In Latin America, land conversion to pasture and crop areas has been identified as one of die main sources of deforestation over the past three decades (Walker 2004). However, the contribution of logging to forest loss increased significantly in the past 20 years (Carr 2004, Ferraz 2002). Most evidence of this comes from research in frontier lands in die tropical lowlands (Walker 2004, Carr and Bilsborrow 2001, Walker et al. 2000, Wood 1983). However, representative studies are needed for a whole range of regions, under a broad diversity of land use and management strategies. This study analyzes the implications of two types of forest management practices on forest diversity at a local level and the relationships between deforestation and its physical and so ciò -demo graphic contexts at a regional level in the Ecuadorian Chocó region.

The Ecuadorian Chocó region, an area of approximately 7,000 km^sup 2^ located on the northern edge of the Esmeraldas province in northwestern Ecuador, gathered the attention of several national and international conservation organizations when Norman Myers identified it as a biodiversity hot spot. Myers (1990, 1988) introduced the term biodiversity hotspot to distinguish places with particularly large numbers of endemic species at risk of extinction due to the expansion and intensification of human activities. The Ecuadorian Chocó region obtained this denomination since approximately 13 to 20 percent of its vascular plants, 25 percent of its mammals, 60 percent of its amphibians, and 10 percent of its birds are endemic (CEPF 2001), and their habitat experienced more dian 85 percent habitat loss over the previous 30 years, mainly due to agriculture and logging (Sierra and Stallings 1998, CEPF 2001).

Logging activities have increased in the Ecuadorian Chocó in the past 20 years due to increased local and national demands for timber (Sierra et al. 2003). Approximately 70 percent of the Ecuadorian domestic timber comes directly from this region (Sierra 2001). Due to the potential impacts of these activities on biodiversity, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) provided financial support through the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE) in 1992 for the creation of the Sustainable Use of Biological Resources (SUBIR) project. The objective of this project was to implement an ambitious conservation program in this region, specifically to preserve the remaining forests located in the area surrounding the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve located in the provinces of Imbabura and Esmeraldas (CEPF 2001). The main objective of SUBIR was to promote economic activities that could improve household income and reduce pressure on forest resources, such as technical ecosystem monitoring, ecotourism, handicraft production using locally available materials, and sustainable forestry, as opposed to high intensity conventional logging.

We define sustainable forestry as a type of forest management that ensures diat forests continue to produce timber over the long term, while maintaining the full complement of environmental services, such as carbon sequestration or soil erosion prevention, and the provision of non-timber products, such as game and food resources (Rice et al. 2001). Techniques such as manual or semi-mechanized selective logging and improved timber transportation systems are usually used (UhI and Guimaraes-Vieira 1989). Even though some damage could be inflicted to the nearby vegetation during the extraction of selected species (i.e. collateral damage), ecosystem services and functions are maintained over the long term. Sustainable forestry involves the implementation of forest management plans (FMP). …

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