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Popline. 1992 Sep-Oct;14:4.

Central America's shrinking forests.

[No authors listed]



This news brief reports that 66% of deforestation in Central America has happened in the past 40 years, based on World Conservation Union (WCU) data. Deforestation is expected to continue. The population of Central America and Mexico grew by 28% between 1977 and 1987. Growth is decreasing but remains high at 2.5% in all countries of the region except Panama. 29 million was the regional population in 1990; the projection is for 63 million by 2025. Population is migrating to urban centers. Forests declined by 13% and croplands increased from 4% to 13% of total land area and pasture land from 2% to 37%. There was an increase in unproductive land from 145 to 24%, i.e., 50% of El Salvador's land had soil degradation as does 30% of Guatemala's. In addition to deforestation and soil degradation, there has been soil erosion leading to sedimentation buildup near dam sites and in rivers, which diminishes hydroelectric power capability. Silting also affects groundwater resources, which impact on a safe drinking water supply. Population growth results in increased demand for fuelwood, urban land, and agricultural land. New techniques practiced widely are needed in order to meet the region's needs or demands. Slowing population growth buys time for adjusting to the necessary changes needed for sustaining the region's population. WCU urges conservation organizations to raise awareness about the role population plays in environmental degradation, and to support efforts to reduce birth rates. Women's status needs to be improved through income-generating projects, for instance, and cooperation is needed between conservation groups and organizations involved with improving maternal and child health.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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