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Honduras Forest Figures

Forest Cover
Total forest area: 4,648,000 ha
% of land area: 41.5%

Primary forest cover: 1,512,000 ha
% of land area: 13.5%
% total forest area: 32.5%

Deforestation Rates, 2000-2005
Annual change in forest cover: -156,400 ha
Annual deforestation rate: -3.1%
Change in defor. rate since '90s: 8.8%
Total forest loss since 1990: -2,737,000 ha
Total forest loss since 1990:-37.1%

Primary or "Old-growth" forests
Annual loss of primary forests: n/a
Annual deforestation rate: n/a
Change in deforestation rate since '90s: n/a
Primary forest loss since 1990: n/a
Primary forest loss since 1990:0.0%

Forest Classification
Public: 75%
Private: 25%
Other: 0%
Production: 41.7%
Protection: 1.7%
Conservation: 32.5%
Social services: 0.8%
Multiple purpose: 23.3%
None or unknown: 0

Forest Area Breakdown
Total area: 4,648,000 ha
Primary: 1,512,000 ha
Modified natural: 2,261,000 ha
Semi-natural: 845,000 ha
Production plantation: n/a
Production plantation: 30,000 ha

Plantations, 2005: 30,000 ha
% of total forest cover: 0.6%
Annual change rate (00-05): 800,000 ha

Carbon storage
Above-ground biomass: n/a M t
Below-ground biomass: n/a M t

Area annually affected by
Fire: 55,000 ha
Insects: 1,000 ha
Diseases: n/a

Number of tree species in IUCN red list
Number of native tree species: 400
Critically endangered: 43
Endangered: 38
Vulnerable: 30

Wood removal 2005
Industrial roundwood: 1,009,000 m3 o.b.
Wood fuel: 14,567,000 m3 o.b.

Value of forest products, 2005
Industrial roundwood: $18,132,000
Wood fuel: $40,642,000
Non-wood forest products (NWFPs): $4,117,000
Total Value: $62,891,000

More forest statistics for Honduras

With its varied ecosystems—from montane forests to rainforests to mangrove swamps—and awakening environmental awareness, some conservation groups believe Honduras may be poised to follow in the footsteps of Costa Rica. Nevertheless, Honduras suffered the greatest percentage loss of forest cover of any country in Latin America over the past generation. Between 1990 and 2005, 37.1 percent of the forests of Honduras disappeared. Worse, since the close of the 1990s, Honduras's rate of forest loss has increased by 9 percent.

Honduras's high rate of deforestation stems from its poverty. Despite its natural wealth, both mineral and biological, Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Central America. Deforestation results from agricultural colonization by subsistence farmers, clearing for cattle pasture, collection of fuelwood (65 percent of the country's energy comes from fuelwood), mining activities, timber harvesting, and forest fires.

Illegal logging is a major problem in Honduras. By some estimates, as much as 85 percent of timber production in the country is illegal. The illicit timber trade feeds endemic corruption that involves politicians, bureaucrats, timber companies, mayors, police, and other officials, according to a 2005 investigation by the Center for International Policy and the Environmental Investigation Agency.

While the government has increasingly taken a pro-environment stance by establishing protected areas and generally cracking down on some illegal forest activities—corruption notwithstanding—its biggest challenge is gaining support from people who rely on forests for subsistence activities. Colonists put pressure on nature reserves while a lack of funds—some of which are being diverted to fight the country's burgeoning gang problem—means that parks are understaffed and illegal activities are hard to control.

Where the government fails or lags, a blossoming grassroots environmental movement has stepped in and is seen by many conservationists as a key to the future of the country's environment. In 1993, the Honduran government passed the country's first national environmental law after years of pressure from these local environmental organizations. That same year, pressure from local and international environmental groups helped influence the government in canceling a contract with Stone Container Corporation of Chicago to log extensive areas along the Mosquito Coast. In 2005, Father Andres Jose Tamayo, a Honduran priest who established the Movement of Olancho—a green group that has fought illegal loggers— won the prestigious Goldman prize for his environmental efforts in the country. However, the scarcity of forest resources is increasingly pitting environmentalists against developers. According to the Associated Press, in 2005 President Ricardo Maduro sent in troops to help quell conflicts between loggers and environmentalists in south-central Honduras. Earlier that year, three members of the Movement of Olancho were shot and killed.

The effects of deforestation are evident during tropical storms and hurricanes that periodically batter the country. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch killed thousands and caused widespread damage to infrastructure. Aerial surveys following the storm revealed that mudslides were worst in deforested areas. Hillsides forested with natural vegetation—which anchors soils—suffered less damage.

In June 2005, Honduras became the second country to receive aid under the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) program when it signed a five-year $215 million funding deal. The MCA provides money for improving the productivity of farmers and upgrading roads to increase rural accessibility but requires the country to clamp down on corruption and improve its economic and legal systems. At this point it's difficult to anticipate the MCA's impact on the environment. The improvement of roads may very well stimulate more deforestation, but this may be offset by benefits from better forestry law enforcement and higher standards of living among rural residents.

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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: 6 Feb 2006

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