Forest fires burn in Central America
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
April 10, 2006
Every spring farmers use fires to clear thousands of hectares of forest and scrub land for agricultural use. Burning vegetation not only makes land available for planting but releases enough nutrients to support vigorous crop growth for the season. However, as generally practiced, such techniques are associated with erosion and biodiversity loss.
According to the UN, the countries with the highest rate of forest loss in Central America between 1990 and 2005 are Honduras (37.1 percent), Nicaragua (20.6 percent), El Salvador (20.5 percent), Guatemala (17.1 percent), and Costa Rica (6.7 percent). Despite this loss, Central America remains one of the most biodiverse regions on Earth. Several countries, including Costa Rica, Panama, and Honduras, are capitalizing on their biological wealth by promoting ecotourism.
This year, reports indicate that fires have burned a section of Tikal National Park in northern Guatemala, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its ancient Maya ruins. In past years, several national parks have suffered damage from forest fires. For example, in 1998 fires burned more than 160,000 acres (65,000 hectares) of the Maya Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala.