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Forests - a mixed fate

Land and forest degradation as well as forest fragmentation remain among the most relevant environmental issues in this region in all scenarios. The patterns of conversion of forests to pasture and agricultural land vary by scenario and sub-region. Just as important as the total forest area is the level of exploitation of the forests.

Significant loss of forest area occurs in a Markets First scenario. This scenario also sees much greater exploitation of existing forests. In a Security First world, the control over forest resources by transnational companies that create cartels in association with the national groups in power, promote the growth of some forest areas, but this is not enough to stop net deforestation. Private control of forests also leads to occasional violent resistance from forest dwellers and nearby settlers who need access to the forests to meet their daily needs.

More effective management remedies some of these problems in Policy First. In this scenario, policies to promote forest plantations are enacted and institutional strengthening creates better forest control, reducing illegal extraction of timber from native forests and promoting sound forest management practices for commercial production. However, deforestation remains a problem and pressures also arise on forests from the desire to be more selfsufficient in food production. Unsound deforestation stops almost completely in Sustainability First. Policies addressing the restoration of degraded forests through the natural regeneration of forest ecosystems are implemented as the value of forest services is internalized by world markets. Moreover, the use of alternative fuels to firewood is now more scientifically and economically feasible, while commercial use of forests under forest management certification regimes has turned out to be highly profitable.

Key to charts

Changes in land cover pose risks for land degradation (see chart below). In Markets First and Security First worlds, the agricultural frontier continues to expand into rainforest ecosystems. This expansion is driven by large commercial livestock farming and industrial cropping, along with influxes of immigrants attracted by these developments and by new infrastructure projects. Exacerbated by drought, many more desertification hotspots are evident by 2032. Land tenure reforms ameliorate these drivers in Policy First and Sustainability First but not in the other scenarios. However, enforcement of direct and indirect regulations does lead to improvements in controlling soil erosion, dramatically reducing the amount of cropland lost to degradation. In addition, some degraded land is restored, leading to markedly lower net rates than in Markets First or Security First (see below).

Area with high risk of water-induced soil degradation: Latin America and the Caribbean (% of total land area)

Source: IMAGE 2.2 (see technical annex)

Percentage of 2002 cropland severely degraded by 2032: Latin America and the Caribbean

Bars represent the percentage of cropland that has become so degraded by 2032 that it is of little value for production.

Source: PoleStar (see technical annex)