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Guatemala Forest Figures

Forest Cover
Total forest area: 3,938,000 ha
% of land area: 36.3%

Primary forest cover: 1,957,000 ha
% of land area: 18.0%
% total forest area: 49.7%

Deforestation Rates, 2000-2005
Annual change in forest cover: -54,000 ha
Annual deforestation rate: -1.3%
Change in defor. rate since '90s: 12.8%
Total forest loss since 1990: -810,000 ha
Total forest loss since 1990:-17.1%

Primary or "Old-growth" forests
Annual loss of primary forests: -26800 ha
Annual deforestation rate: -1.3%
Change in deforestation rate since '90s: 12.8%
Primary forest loss since 1990: -134,000 ha
Primary forest loss since 1990:-17.0%

Forest Classification
Public: 42.2%
Private: 52.5%
Other: 5.3%
Production: 26.8%
Protection: n/a
Conservation: 62.3%
Social services: n/a
Multiple purpose: n/a
None or unknown: 10.9

Forest Area Breakdown
Total area: 3,938,000 ha
Primary: 1,957,000 ha
Modified natural: 1,859,000 ha
Semi-natural: n/a
Production plantation: 122,000 ha
Production plantation: n/a

Plantations, 2005: 122,000 ha
% of total forest cover: 3.1%
Annual change rate (00-05): 6,800,000 ha

Carbon storage
Above-ground biomass: 755 M t
Below-ground biomass: 241 M t

Area annually affected by
Fire: 68,000 ha
Insects: 1,000 ha
Diseases: n/a

Number of tree species in IUCN red list
Number of native tree species: 700
Critically endangered: 2
Endangered: 30
Vulnerable: 51

Wood removal 2005
Industrial roundwood: 623,000 m3 o.b.
Wood fuel: 18,622,000 m3 o.b.

Value of forest products, 2005
Industrial roundwood: $37,709,000
Wood fuel: $159,110,000
Non-wood forest products (NWFPs): n/a
Total Value: $196,819,000

More forest statistics for Guatemala

Guatemala has one of the most extensive and diverse forest systems in Central America. The country is home to 1,246 known species of amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles, and 8,681 species of plants, of which 13.5 percent are endemic. Today forest covers between a quarter and a third of the country, but this is fast disappearing. Between 1990 and 2005, Guatemala lost 17 percent of its total forest cover and deforestation rates have increased by nearly 13 percent since the close of the 1990s.

Guatemala's rural population is among the poorest in Central America. As such, people's day-to-day survival is dependent upon natural resource use. Most rural Guatemalans have few employment options; they must live off the land that surrounds them making use of whatever resources they can find. Their poverty and relative lack of opportunity mean the country's forests are falling at one of the highest rates in Latin America. Official figures show that around 80,000 hectares are deforested annually, though some organizations say the figure may be closer to 95,000 hectares—or 3 percent of the country's forests—per year. Not even national parks are safe. Recent surveys have found extensive illegal logging in the Mayan Biosphere Reserve and the Laguna del Tigre national park. While such logging tends to be destructive, environmental groups are working to develop community-based conservation projects that use sustainable harvesting techniques to reduce the impact on the forest ecosystem.

Most forest loss in Guatemala results from colonization, which leads to agriculture and fuelwood collection. Population pressures around protected areas result in illegal timber harvesting and land clearing for agriculture in national parks. Fires set for land clearing in nearby fields often spread into protected forest areas. For example, in 1998 fires burned more than 160,000 acres (65,000 hectares) of the Maya Biosphere Reserve. While 27 percent of Guatemala's land is protected, most of these areas generally amount to little more than paper parks.

Gold mining, road construction, and land clearing for cattle pasture are also considered important factors in the ongoing disappearance of Guatemala's forests.

The continuing loss of Guatemala's forests could prove costly for the country. New research suggests that the great Mayan civilization of the past was done in by a familiar problem: deforestation. Already deforestation has had a significant environmental impact in Guatemala. In parts of the country soil erosion reduces agricultural yields while deforested hillsides are more susceptible to landslides during tropical storms that batter the country. In 2005, mudslides attributed to tropical storm Stan killed more than 1,500 people in the country.

Recent articles | Guatemala news updates | XML

'Green' hydropower dam fuels charges of gross human rights violations
(05/27/2015) A hydropower project planned on Guatemala's Icbolay River has resulted in major human rights abuses, advocacy groups are charging. The 24-megawatt Santa Rita dam is backed by the World Bank and several European banks, as well as the Guatemalan government. In spite of the alleged abuses, the dam's owner has been granted approval to earn carbon offset credits for the electricity the dam would generate that could be traded under the European Union's Emission Trading System.

Mining and Energy Contracts under Investigation as Corruption Scandals Rock Guatemala
(05/22/2015) The Guatemalan cabinet ministers for the environment, the interior, and energy and mines stepped down May 21 amid corruption scandals and massive protests. Investigations into alleged irregularities in mining, energy, and other environmental project contracts and permits have been thrust back into the spotlight. Mining and energy projects in the country have faced intense community resistance, which has often become the target of crackdowns by state and corporate security forces.

62M ha of Latin American forests cleared for agriculture since 2001
(05/19/2015) Over 62 million hectares (240,000 square miles) of forest across Latin America — an area roughly the size of Texas or the United Kingdom — were cleared for new croplands and pastureland between 2001 and 2013, find a study published in Environmental Research Letters.

Nickel Mine, Lead Bullets: Maya Q'eqchi' seek justice in Guatemala and Canada
(05/19/2015) This week, indigenous victims of violence related to Guatemala's Fenix mine travel to Canada to speak outside the shareholder meeting of the mine's former owner, HudBay. Legal proceedings related to the violence are moving forward in Guatemala and Canada.

Anti-mining activist shot dead in Guatemala
(04/13/2015) Earlier this month, environmental activist, Telésforo Odilo Pivaral Gonzalez, was killed by unknown assailants who shot him five times. The father of six children (ages 1-11), Pivaral Gonzalez had actively opposed a conflict-ridden Escobal silver mine project run by Canadian company, Tahoe Resources, and its local subsidiary, Minera San Rafael SA.

Rainforest loss increased in the 2000s, concludes new analysis
(02/25/2015) Loss of tropical forests accelerated roughly 60 percent during the 2000s, argues a paper published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The findings contradict previous research suggesting that deforestation slowed since the 1990s. The study is based on a map of 1990 forest cover developed last year by Do-Hyung Kim and colleagues from the University of Maryland. The map, which includes 34 countries that contain 80 percent of the world's tropical forests, enabled the researchers to establish a consistent baseline for tracking forest cover change across regions and countries over time.

Initiative to restore 50M acres of degraded Latin American ecosystems by 2020
(12/07/2014) A coalition of governments and organizations today pledged to restore 20 million hectares (50 million acres) of degraded forests and ecosystems across Latin America by 2020 under an initiative that aims to curb boost rural incomes, fight climate change, and increase agricultural production. The effort is backed by $365 million from five impact investors.

Four countries pledge to restore 30 million hectares of degraded lands at UN Summit
(09/25/2014) In 2011, Germany and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature launched the Bonn Challenge, which pledged to restore 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested lands by 2020. Several countries have already made commitments—including the U.S.—but this week at the UN Climate Summit four more jumped on board.

Challenging the 'tragedy of the commons': new documentary explores how humans and nature can coexist (VIDEO)
(08/20/2014) In Guatemala, a vast community forest has prospered for centuries despite an ever-growing population, challenging the idea that human inhabitation of an area will inevitably lead to its ecological degradation.

True stewards: new report says local communities key to saving forests, curbing global warming
(07/24/2014) Deforestation is compromising forests around the world, destroying vital habitat and causing greenhouse gases emissions that are contributing to global warming. A new report released today finds a possible solution: protecting forests by empowering the local communities that live within them.

Guatemala establishes new reserve for endangered animals
(06/04/2014) Guatemala has formally established a 19,000-hectare (47,000-acre) reserve that protects several endangered bird and amphibian species, reports the American Bird Conservancy (ABC). The Sierra Caral Water and Forest Reserve received overwhelming support during a vote by Guatemala's Congress. It is the first new protected area designated by Congress since 2005

Eighty sea turtles wash up dead on the coast of Guatemala
(08/27/2013) An assortment of marine animals and birds reside along the black volcanic sand beaches of Guatemala’s Pacific coast, but lately both residents and visitors on the southeast beaches of the country have observed a tragic event – the stranding of dead sea turtles. Eighty dead sea turtles have been recorded since the first week of July.

Featured video: saving animals from the illegal pet trade in Guatemala
(07/22/2013) Found in Central America's largest forest, the Maya Biosphere Reserve, the Guatemalan organization Arcas has rescued and rehabilitated thousands of animals since its inception in 1989. Unlike many wildlife rescue centers worldwide, Arcas focuses on rehabilitating every animal for eventually release back into the wild. This means intensive training for each species, including food gathering and predator avoidance. A new short video by Arcas highlights the group's decades-long work.

First strike: nearly 200 illegal loggers arrested in massive sting across 12 countries
(02/20/2013) One-hundred-and-ninety-seven illegal loggers across a dozen Central and South American countries have been arrested during INTERPOL's first strike against widespread forestry crime. INTERPOL, or The International Criminal Police Organization, worked with local police forces to take a first crack at illegal logging. In all the effort, known as Operation Lead, resulted in the seizure of 50,000 cubic meters of wood worth around $8 million.

Photos: Chinese leopard wins camera trap contest
(11/27/2012) The third annual BBC Wildlife Magazine Camera Trap Photo of the Year contest has produced some stunning and surprising images, including a snow leopard sticking its tongue out, a rare giant pangolin, and wrestling monitor lizards. But the winner this year was the perfect shot of a young leopard in China.

Dry forests disappearing faster than rainforests in Latin America
(08/21/2012) Countries across Latin America lost 78,000 square kilometers of subtropical and tropical dry broadleaf forests between 2001 and 2010, according to a new satellite-based assessment published in the journal Biotropica.

Herp paradise preserved in Guatemala
(05/29/2012) Fifteen conservation groups have banded together to save around 2,400 hectares (6,000 acres) of primary rainforest in Guatemala, home to a dozen imperiled amphibians as well as the recently discovered Merendon palm pit viper (Bothriechis thalassinus). The new park, dubbed the Sierra Caral Amphibian Reserve, lies in the Guatemalan mountains on the border with Honduras in a region that has been called the most important conservation area in Guatemala.

Earth systems disruption: Does 2011 indicate the "new normal" of climate chaos and conflict?
(12/21/2011) The year 2011 has presented the world with a shocking increase in irregular weather and disasters linked to climate change. Just as the 2007 "big melt" of summer arctic sea ice sent scientists and environmentalists scrambling to re-evaluate the severity of climate change, so have recent events forced major revisions and updates in climate science.

Top forest policies recognized
(03/23/2011) 19 forest policies have been nominated for an award by the World Future Council, a global think tank.

Women are key to global conservation
(03/03/2011) In 1991, my nine-year-old daughter Rachel traveled with me to Guatemala where we were struck by the heartbreaking rural poverty and mudslides worsened by widespread deforestation. We vividly remember holding a three-year-old child who was so listless and malnourished he could scarcely lift his arms. The worry and fatigue on his mother's face and the child's condition affected us both profoundly, despite Rachel's relative youth.

Loss of old growth forest continues
(10/06/2010) A new global assessment of forest stocks by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) shows continuing loss of primary forests since 2005 despite gains in the extent of protected areas. FAO's Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010 reveals some 13 million hectares of forest were cleared between 2000 and 2010, down from around 16 million hectares per year during the 1990s. Loss of primary forest—mostly a consequence of logging—averaged 4.2 million hectares per year, down from 4.7 million hectares per year in the 1990s.

Photos: world's top ten 'lost frogs'
(08/09/2010) The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Conservation International (CI) have sent teams of researchers to 14 countries on five continents to search for the world's lost frogs. These are amphibian species that have not been seen for years—in some cases even up to a century—but may still survive in the wild. Amphibians worldwide are currently undergoing an extinction crisis. While amphibians struggle to survive against habitat loss, climate change, pollution, and overexploitation, they are also being wiped out by a fungal disease known as chytridiomycosis.

Guatemala latest country to declare food crisis: nearly half a million families face food shortages
(09/10/2009) The President of Guatemala, Alvaro Colom, has announced a "state of public calamity" to tackle food shortages throughout the Central American nation. The failure of bean and corn crops from drought, which cut the yields of these staple crops in half, has brought the crisis to a head. In addition, prime agricultural land in Guatemala is often used to grow export crops like coffee and sugar rather than staples.

Territorial disputes and conservation
(03/23/2009) Political drivers such as those related to territorial disputes between tropical countries can result in direct and indirect ramifications negatively impacting conservation of native ecosystems report Arlenie Perez, Chuang Chin-Ta and Farok Afero in the March issue of the open access journal Tropical Conservation Science.

Salamander populations collapse in Central America
(02/09/2009) Salamanders in Central America — like frogs, toads, and other amphibians at sites around the world — are rapidly and mysteriously declining, report researchers writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Disturbingly, salamanders are disappearing from protected areas and otherwise pristine habitats.

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Unless otherwise specified, this article was written by Rhett A. Butler [Bibliographic citation for this page]

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Last updated: 5 Feb 2006

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