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#444318 - 08/10/12 01:43 PM Study shows steady deforestation in Belize
Marty Offline

Belize sells its tourism package as one of Mother Nature’s best kept secrets. But the country’s natural resources that have come under attack by Guatemalan peasants who look across the river to an abundance of wood and opportunity. A recent study has been conducted that shows much of Belize’s deforestation has occurred over the past decade. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The constant incursion of Guatemalan loggers, xateros and poachers unto Belizean soil draws critical attention to the need for increased frontier and interior patrols across the length of the border.  The latest armed confrontation between Belize Defense Force personnel and a group of illegal tree cutters in the Toledo District, which resulted in the death of a Guatemalan national, is also a reminder that extensive deforestation is taking place deep within our territory.  The results of a recent study, conducted on clear-cutting exercises during a six-year period, commencing in 2004, indicate that approximately fifteen thousand, seven hundred and fifty-two acres of natural vegetative cover have been logged in the Orange Walk, Cayo and Toledo Districts at an alarming rate of roughly two thousand, two hundred and fifty-one acres annually.

While the unwelcomed intrusion in any particular area can be attributed to a number of prohibited activities, including mineral extraction, namely the panning for gold, denuding has increased significantly over the past decade.  The graphic displayed here illustrates the topographical changes that have taken place between 1975 and 2007.  During the thirty-two years that have passed, there has been substantial habitat loss near the western border as Guatemala’s population has doubled since 1985.

In the south, selective logging, xate harvesting and animal poaching, as well as geophysical exploration have been listed as the most common dangers to natural habitat.  Chiquibul National Park, located in the Cayo District, is Belize’s largest protected area spanning four hundred and fourteen square miles.  It is also under attack, despite a laws that have been enacted to minimize human impact.  The Ceibo Chico Protocol, ratified by the Government of Belize, along with Friends of Conservation and Development and other agencies, is an example of effective legal framework that have been put in place to mitigate deforestation.  New technology developed to track habitat loss has equally proven useful in understanding the reasons behind deforestation. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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#444329 - 08/10/12 02:27 PM Re: Study shows steady deforestation in Belize [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
TERRA-I ANALYSIS   |  

The endemic border dispute between Guatemala and Belize is no longer the unique fuel that drives the two countries’ popularity. Between 2004 and 2010, the Belize districts of Cayo, Orange Walk and Toledo lost 6,375 ha of natural vegetative cover, equivalent to an annual average of 911 ha/year. Across the border, in the Petén department of Guatemala, a total of 95,769 ha of natural habitat were lost, corresponding with an average rate of change of 13,681 ha/year. Terra-i illustrates the contrasting scenarios surrounding deforestation on the Guatemala-Belize border between 2004 - 2010 (Figure 1). This reinforces the findings of the recent NASA study, according to which the highest deforestation rates and changes in natural vegetative cover in the two countries have been identified during 2000-2010.

Image Tracking forest loss on the Guatemala-Belize border

Belize is one of the world’s most biologically diverse nations and shares the largest proportion of forested area in Central America. In 2010, forests covered approximately 61 % of the country (16,530 sq km). The population density is here the lowest in the entire Central American region and, according to the 2011 Human Development Report, one third of the people have been reported to live below the national poverty line (from a total population of 356,600) . In contrast, Guatemala has only about 31 % of its land area covered by forests (38,300 sq km), facing one of the highest deforestation rates in Central America. Population in the country has doubled since 1985, reaching 14,757,316 in 2011, half of which now lives below the national poverty line.

The first tracking system for habitat loss across Latin America, Terra-i, enabled the analysis of deforestation on the Guatemala-Belize border, in the Petén department (Guatemala) and the three districts – Cayo, Orange Walk and Toledo (Belize), for a period of seven years (2004-2010). Most of the deforestation events that occurred between 2004 and 2010 were located within these administrative areas. Indeed, 85% of the deforestation that occurred in Belize was located within these three districts adjacent to Guatemala. On the other side, 74% of the deforestation rates in Guatemala have been located in the Petén department, which also holds the highest annual rate of population growth in the country.

In the Belize districts of Cayo, Orange Walk and Toledo Terra-i detected a 338 ha loss in 2004 and 1875 ha in 2010 (an increase of 455%). Within the same period, a total of 6,375 ha of natural vegetative cover were lost, which is equivalent to an annual average of 911 ha/year. In the Guatemalan Petén, about 1,569 ha were lost in 2004 and 16,500 ha in 2010 (an increase of 952%). During this time, the registered natural habitat loss equaled 95,769 ha (an average rate of change of 13,681 ha/year). Within the studied areas, 100% of the deforestation events occurred within the Petén-Veracruz moist forest eco-region. 


Figure 2.   Satellite images provided by NASA show the high landscape change between 1975 and 2007 on the Guatemala-Belize border. Source: UNEP, CATHALAC.
Figure 2. Satellite images provided by NASA show the high landscape change between 1975 and 2007 on the Guatemala-Belize border. Source: UNEP, CATHALAC.



Although the analyzed regions are home to a considerable number of protected areas, deforestation rates are still high. In Petén (Guatemala), Terra-i was able to detect strong disturbance events in the protected “Complejo III APSP”, a buffer zone of the Maya Biosphere Reserve. The region, despite being Central America’s largest protected area with high levels of biodiversity, experienced extensive deforestation events which are now advancing towards the Belize frontier. According to Gilles Selleron, a geographer at the University of Toulouse-Le-Mirai, cattle rearing, mainly carried out by the Ladino population (people of Hispanic origin) and traditional subsistence farming of corn, marrow and beans by the indigenous Q'eqchi are the main drivers of deforestation in the Petén department. Also, as the population rate in the country grows the pressure on natural resources increases proportionally with the demand for food, fuel and other resources.


Figure 3. Annual rate of habitat loss and accumulated loss for administrative areas, which are in the both sides of Guatemala-Belize border and the same values for the remaining of each country.
Figure 3. Annual rate of habitat loss and accumulated loss for administrative areas, which are in the both sides of Guatemala-Belize border and the same values for the remaining of each country.



Across the border, in Belize, illegal activities (selective logging, timber harvesting, animal and plant poaching and gold mining), increased oil explorations (the majority of potential oil reserves are located within protected areas) and infrastructure improvement projects are the most common threats to the natural habitat. For example, the Southern Highway (Mile 14)- Belize/Guatemala Border Road Project is under construction and will facilitate communication within Belize as well as connections with Guatemala and Honduras. Such infrastructural improvements could increase the risk of negative impact on natural and cultural resources as has already occurred in other places in Latin America, reconfirming the importance of integrating broader road construction projects with comprehensive sustainable development planning.

At the same time, the Chiquibul forest in Belize, the country’s largest protected area, has benefited from a coherent law framework which helped reduce human impact on forested areas. One good example is the Ceibo Chico Protocol, a document signed by the Belize government in cooperation with Friends of Conservation and Development park rangers, B.D.F. soldiers, the Forest Department and Police personnel. This document illustrates government’s effort to put an end to the increasing illegal activities and to protect historical and cultural resources like the Caracol Reserve in western Belize.

Thus, the Terra-i tool proves to be a powerful deforestation-tracker which, combined with information on the drivers and consequences of habitat loss, can help us better understand how and why forest loss occur.

Source


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#444372 - 08/11/12 12:59 PM Re: Study shows steady deforestation in Belize [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Belize’s border forest threatened

Whereas Belize is lauded internationally for its exemplary forest preservation efforts, its immediate western neighbor, Guatemala, is grappling with one of the highest deforestation rates in Central America, and as anticipated, the escalating deforestation problem is extending into Belizean forests, as Amandala, supported by Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD), had highlighted in a May 2011 special report featuring massive land clearings, slashed and burned for illegal plantings by Guatemalans in the Chiquibul—a spillover of activities in the fast-growing Peten which features very high poverty rates. (See photo accompanying this article.)

As things now stand, Belize’s forests, when viewed aerially or via satellite imagery, form a nearly perfect natural border between Belize and Guatemala, but continued encroachments into Belizean territory, which includes massive land clearings for farms year-in, year-out, point to a scenario where Belize’s western forests could be lost in a matter of about three decades if the current deforestation pattern is allowed to persist.

The issue, which has yet to receive the kind of attention it deserves, is in the public forefront once again, and Terra-i, a collaboration between the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT - DAPA, based in Colombia), the Nature Conservancy (TNC, based in the US), the School of Business and Engineering (HEIG-VD, based in Switzerland) and King’s College London (KCL, based in the UK), this week issued a report highlighting the escalating deforestation on the Belize-Guatemala border, and the long-term implications for Belize if nothing is done to tackle the problem.

The report, authored by Alejandro Coca, an agricultural engineer from National University of Colombia, along with Louis Reymondin and Andreea Nowak, notes that, “Traditional subsistence farming of corn, marrow and beans by the indigenous Q’eqchi are the main drivers of deforestation in the Petén department...” However, there is a warning being sounded for Belize.

 “Across the border, in Belize, illegal activities (selective logging, timber harvesting, animal and plant poaching and gold mining), increased oil explorations (the majority of potential oil reserves are located within protected areas) and infrastructure improvement projects are the most common threats to the natural habitat,” said the Terra-I report. “For example, the Southern Highway (Mile 14)- Belize/Guatemala Border Road Project is under construction and will facilitate communication within Belize as well as connections with Guatemala and Honduras. Such infrastructural improvements could increase the risk of negative impact on natural and cultural resources as has already occurred in other places in Latin America, reconfirming the importance of integrating broader road construction projects with comprehensive sustainable development planning.”

Amandala contacted Forestry Minister Lisel Alamilla to find out if she knew of the Terra-i report but she told us that she did not and asked us to forward a copy for her perusal. However, she declined to comment, for the time being, on the increasingly problematic trend of deforestation that has been affecting Belize.

Lee McLoughlin, Protected Areas Manager of Ya’axché Conservation Trust (YCT), said: “One only has to look at the maps comparing forest cover 1975 to 2010 to see what we risk 35 years into the future.”

He said that in YCT’s outreach work with local communities, they highlight that Belize has the chance to be an example to the world of sustainable forest management.

“Those countries that have already lost the majority of their forest and are acutely overpopulated do not have that choice,” McLoughlin added.

In tracking the deforestation, Terra-i analyzed deforestation on the Guatemala-Belize border. It particularly looked at the Petén department in Guatemala and adjacent lands in the Cayo, Orange Walk and Toledo districts in Belize between 2004 and 2010.

The assessment noted that “...85% of the deforestation that occurred in Belize was located within these three districts adjacent to Guatemala.”

It added that, “On the other side, 74% of the deforestation rates in Guatemala have been located in the Petén department, which also holds the highest annual rate of population growth in the country.”

The loss of Belizean forest increased more than five-fold between 2004 and 2010, while there was much more aggressive deforestation in Guatemalan—double the rate of deforestation in Belize—over the same period of time.

“In the Belize districts of Cayo, Orange Walk and Toledo Terra-i detected a 338 ha loss in 2004 and 1875 ha in 2010 (an increase of 455%). Within the same period, a total of 6,375 ha of natural vegetative cover were lost, which is equivalent to an annual average of 911 ha/year,” said the Terra-I report. “In the Guatemalan Petén, about 1,569 ha were lost in 2004 and 16,500 ha in 2010 (an increase of 952%). During this time, the registered natural habitat loss equaled 95,769 ha (an average rate of change of 13,681 ha/year).”

The Terra-i alliance said the recent assessment reinforces the findings of another recent NASA study, tracking deforestation between 2000 and 2010 in the two neighboring countries.

In October 2010, Amandala featured an article captioned “Belize forests vanishing,” in which we pointed to concerns that “...25,000 acres of Belizean forest are cleared each year, equivalent to about 9,000 football fields.”

A September 2010 report, Forest Cover and Deforestation in Belize: 1980-2010, pointed to a largely deforested area on a 2010 map, which was densely forested before Independence in 1980. The report was produced by a team of scientists led by Emil A. Cherrington, Senior Scientist, Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America & the Caribbean (CATHALAC – Centro del Agua del Trópico Húmedo para América Latina y El Caribe); along with Dan Irwin of NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the US); Edgar Ek; Percival Cho and others.

It said, “Belize’s forest cover has declined from 75.9% in 1980 to 62.7% as of late February 2010.”

Amandala was notified today that the Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean (CATHALAC), in collaboration with the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries, and Sustainable Development of the Government of Belize, Lancaster University of the UK and the Environmental Research Institute of the University of Belize, has just developed the first version of a 2012 forest cover map of Belize and that study, citing slightly different data, indicates that Belize’s forest cover declined from 62.8% in early 2010 to approximately 61.6% in early 2012.

Terra-i notes that in 2010, the forest cover in Guatemala is only 31%.

Amandala


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