Rainforests of Latin America – Reforestation vs. deforestation

Rainforest in Costa Rica

One of the most special characteristics of the Latin American landscape that comes into everybody’s mind while thinking about a land of this group are the forests. No matter what kind of forest, whether it is a rainforest or a primeval forest, in almost every country of Latin America you can see those marvellous and impressive green sceneries. Unfortunately, more and more of these areas are destroyed, particularly because of deforestation, what leads to the fact, that a lot of organisations and Governments are constantly tackling this problem.

The administration of the rainforests in Latin America has always been a highly-discussed topic and probably couldn’t be handled more differently from country to country. While in one country the amount of cleared forest areas continually increases and the exploitation of natural resources goes on, in another country people are trying to redeem the damage that has been caused by the clearance of the last century. The following contribution can be seen as a comparison between Costa Rica in Central America and the South American country of Brazil.

The present situation
The condition of the clearing in Brazil is extremely devastating. A lot of forest area gives way to cattle breeding and agrarian land, additionally high-grade wood is being felled because of its profitable market value.

In Contrast, there is Costa Rica, trying to be the first climate-neutral nation in the near future. What is important for this ambitious project is the fact that 25% of the Costa-Rican land surface already is under conservaton. Also, the pretty successful reforestation of the last decades plays an important part in that project.

Deforestation and its consequences
In Brazil, however, you can observe the biggest deforestation since 2008. In less than a year about 8000 square kilometres of forest area have been cleared, what corresponds to an expansion of 29%. Not only is the clearing of forest area causing irrecoverable damage to natural resources, it also leads to an increase of the emission of carbon dioxide. There has been detected an amount of about 130 additional tonnes of harmful carbon dioxide in the air by the Brazilian observatory for greenhouse gasses. That is about two times the amount the country of Portugal emits in a whole year. A deforestation with that extent could soon be evoking devastating consequences for the country. Experts already pointed out that the extreme draughts of the surroundings of São Paolo in the last few years probably can be attributed to the clearing of forest areas.

Role model Costa Rica: Reforestation
To contrast with that, Costa Rica has taken suitable measures for the process of reforestation. After a lot of forest areas have been cleared in the last century in Costa Rica, now there can be seen a promising improvement within the project of reforestation. Nevertheless, reforestation still is a difficult undertaking, because organising indigenous seeds and seedlings is extremely complicated. Recreating the primeval forest in its original condition is almost impossible since the species richness, which existed before the clearing, cannot be reconstructed. Although more and more indigenous species are returning to the forest, not every species of the prior diversity can be bred for and settled in the new forest. Still there can be perceived a clear success. That is mostly because first only fast-growing species have been planted to create a new protective environment for other plants. In addition to that a fungus, that already has been in the ground before the clearing, has been rediscovered. It helps young trees to grow properly. That way, the primeval forest of Costa Rica is restocked step by step, particularly with imported plants, so that a sustainable forestry can be re-established. 

The situation of the rainforest of those two Latin American countries probably couldn’t be more different. One can only wish for Brazil to take more action in reforestation and that the illegal clearing of forest area can be stopped. After all, in Brazil there too has been a lot of improvement regarding the protection of the rainforest, until the current alarming numbers came out. What could be helpful is the nature conservation and climate protection program of Costa Rica, which definitely should be imitated by other countries because of its visible success. 

If you want to read more interesting articles and news about Costa Rica, go ahead and take a look at this Costa Rica Blog

By Esther Feustel

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