| Forest extent: Latin America and the
The most heavily forested region, Latin America
and the Caribbean lost nearly 47 million ha during 1990-2000, second
only to Africa
Note: dark green represents closed forest, more
than 40 per cent covered with trees more than 5 metres high; midgreen
represents open (10-40 per cent coverage) and fragmented forest;
light green represents other woodland, shrubland and bushland
Source: FAO 2001a
Forests have many important socio-economic functions
in Latin American and Caribbean countries. These include supplying the
wood industry with inputs for domestic consumption and export, providing
local communities with essential non-wood forest products and providing
forest-dwelling indigenous communities with opportunities to continue
their traditional livelihoods. They also provide environmental goods and
services, acting as natural shields against disasters, affording watershed
protection, biodiversity preservation and prevention of soil erosion,
and serving as a sink for carbon dioxide.
Latin America and the Caribbean is one of the most important forest regions,
with nearly one-quarter of the world's forest cover (FAO 2001a).The region
contains 834 million ha of tropical forest and 130 million ha of other
forests, both temperate and dry, coastal and montane, covering 48 per
cent of the total land area (FAO 2001a). Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia,
Mexico, Peru and Venezuela contain 56 per cent of the regional total (FAO
2001a). The region's forests contain more than 160 billion m3 of wood,
onethird of the world total. Guatemala and Panama are among the world's
highest in terms of standing volume per hectare (FAO 2001a).
The Amazon Basin contains the world's most extensive tropical rainforest.
It includes at least 20 different rainforest types, and is considered
to be the world's richest ecosystem in terms of biodiversity (FAO 2001a).
The rate of deforestation is one of highest in the world at an annual
average of 0.48 per cent (varying from 1.2 per cent in Meso-America to
0.4 per cent in South America and a net gain of 0.3 per cent in the Caribbean).
Of the 418 million ha of natural forest lost worldwide over the past 30
years, 190 million ha were in Latin America (FAO 2001a). Total forest
area in the region was reduced by around 46.7 million ha between 1990