Land and Resources, Environmental Issues
clear land, habitat loss, endangered species, tropical forests, international treaties
Much of Guatemala’s rich biodiversity is found in its tropical forests. The country is home to a large proportion of endemic species, but many are threatened due to habitat loss. Each year, 2 percent (1990-1996) of the country’s forests are disappearing. More than half of the country’s labor force works in agriculture, resulting in pressure to clear land for crops and pastures. Forests are also consumed for fuelwood—in 1996 Guatemala’s fuelwood production was the highest in Central America.
Almost 16.8 percent (1997) of Guatemala’s land is protected in parks and other reserves. The Maya Biosphere Reserve, a protected area of tropical rain forest and wetlands in the Peten region, is in danger of encroachment by local settlers, however. This area has suffered extensive deforestation, and many local farmers practice slash-and-burn agriculture. This traditional practice damages soil and allows the land to be farmed for only a limited number of years. Numerous conservation groups, both local and international, are searching for ways to save this precious land before it is entirely deforested.
Guatemala is party to international treaties concerning biodiversity, climate change, endangered species, and wetlands.
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