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UN forecasts mixed picture for Latin America and Caribbean forests

UN forecasts mixed picture for Latin America and Caribbean forests

Managing forests protects precious water supplies
By the end of the next decade, Latin America and the Caribbean will have less natural forest cover, but more woodland areas will be protected and more trees planted, according to projections released today by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Those developments should result in an increased share of international trade in forest products by 2020, say the FAO forecasts, which are being presented this week to the Latin American and Caribbean Forestry Commission in San José, Costa Rica.

"The challenges and opportunities of the expected changes call for greater participation of communities and local government in forest management, better property rights regulations, improved intra-regional trade and development of systems for a better flow of information," Merilio Morell, an FAO forestry expert, said at the meeting.

The study says natural forest cover is expected to continue shrinking, down to 887 million hectares by 2020 from 964 million hectares in 2002.

Meanwhile, planted forests are expected to grow to over 16 million hectares from 12 million, and protected areas are also likely to expand. Between 1950 and 2003, protected areas increased to 397 million hectares from 17.5 million hectares, reaching 19 per cent of the region's total area and 23 per cent of the world's protected areas.

FAO says that with appropriate means it is possible to turn back deforestation. "With proper mechanisms to finance sustainable forest management, it will be possible to reverse the deforestation trend and conserve forest ecosystems," Mr. Morell said. "Latin America and the Caribbean are at the forefront of implementing such innovative financial mechanisms."