Magazine article Science News

Pressures on Central American Forests

Magazine article Science News

Pressures on Central American Forests

Article excerpt

In recent decades, Central America's population has been growing as fast as Africa's, according to James D. Nations, research director of the Center for Human Ecology in Austin, Texas. At current rates, the region's population will double within 24 years. And that portends further ecological destruction in this area, Nations says, because "population expansion is most rapid in low-lying tropical forest regions, where soils are generally poor in quality and where most of the region's remaining forest resources are located." While reducing population growth must be a long-term goal, Nations believes that this, in itself, won't be sufficient to save the region's remaining trees. Existing populations are already large enough, he says, to easily wipe out Central America's remaining tropical forests. And over the next 30 to 50 years they will, he says, unless they are given political and economic incentives to reduce further forest exploitation.

One short-term step to conserve the remaining forests, he says, is to create more and larger national parks, wildlife reserves is the only certain way we have of knowing that there will still be something left to conserve in this region 30 years from now," he says. But even the parks and reserves will not survive if the long-term pressures contributing to deforestation are allowed to continued, he maintains.

One of the most important of these pressures "continues to be the expansion of the beef cattle industry in tropical low-lands," says Nations. …

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