UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Central America has had the highest rate of forest loss in Latin America for the last decade despite efforts to curb the decline, a U.N. report says.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says the average rate of loss of forest cover in Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama was 1.19 percent a year between 2000 and 2010, compared with a global rate of 0.13 percent, Inter Press Service reported Tuesday.

The FAO said Central America's forested area shrank from 54 million acres in 2000 to 48 million acres in 2010.

"The largest percentage loss of forest area continued to take place in Central America, although the rate has fallen in this subregion since 2000," when it stood at 1.56 percent a year, the report said.

The main cause of deforestation in Central America is conversion of forest land due to urbanization and agriculture, the FAO reported, saying 90 percent of the wood removed in the region was for fuel wood.

In Guatemala, Cristofer Lopez of the country's Foundation for Ecodevelopment and Conservation said the expansion of the agricultural frontier "is stealing space from forests."

However, he said, "different methods are being implemented to avoid this situation, like carbon emission reduction projects, forest fire control efforts and improved stoves to avoid the cutting of firewood."

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