#ForestsSince2000:  Guatemala

#ForestsSince2000: Guatemala

Content series connects global forest changes to conservation efforts by organization on the ground to create awareness and drive action

 a. Intro

The #ForestsSince2000 series is an effort by Zooterra to analyze deforestation at a country level and its relation to forest and biodiversity protection efforts by organizations on the ground.   

Global tropical deforestation is a key contributor to climate change, causing 10%(1) of annual carbon dioxide emissions.  Deforestation destroys natural habitats for wildlife. Habitat loss is the primary reason driving wildlife species into endangered status as it affects 85%(2) of all endangered species.  We need global forests more than ever as they capture about a third(3) of the CO2 emitted by human activity every year. 

Under the United Nations umbrella, countries around the world committed to protect 17% of the Earth’s land area and 10% of coastal and marine areas by 2020(4).  Although we are close to achieving those levels on paper, in reality, the degradation and deforestation of protected (and unprotected) areas continues unabated at a global level. 

The #ForestsSince2000 series provides a full feedback loop for Guardians using the Zooterra platform by bringing transparency to deforestation at a country and natural-area levels, and to the effect of conservation activities taking place on the ground through our network of partners.  

b. Guatemala Analysis

Since 2000, based on the forest loss(5) and natural areas datasets(6) used in the analysis, Guatemala has lost a total forest area of 3.5M acres or roughly the size of the U.S. state of Connecticut, or the entire country of Montenegro. Fires, illegal logging, and agriculture are among the key causes driving forest loss.  The cover image shows the forest changes.

Guatemala means “place of many trees”, and fortunately, even with the forest loss in the last 19 years, 50% of the country is still covered by forests.  30% of the country’s surface is designated as a protected area, which is significantly above the UN target of 17% of protected land. However, at the current rate of deforestation, Guatemala could lose 50% of its remaining forests in the next 40 years. 

It is particularly critical to enforce protection or restore existing protected natural areas as they are biodiversity-rich and vulnerable.  Across Guatemala, deforestation inside protected areas was 21%, compared to 19% outside protected areas. This shows that protected areas are in as much risk of forest loss as non-protected areas despite their protected designation and makes the work of our partners even more timely.   

c. Efforts of Network Members on the Ground

The #ForestsSince2000 analysis shows the positive impact preventing deforestation of two Zooterra network members in Guatemala:  Amigos del Lago Atitlan and ACOFOP working in Lake Atitlan and the Maya Biosphere Reserve, respectively. These areas are home to diverse wildlife including jaguars, howler monkeys, nine-banded armadillos and horned guans.  

Since 2000, ACOFOP’s efforts have kept deforestation to a minimum within the 70% of the Maya Biosphere Reserve that ACOFOP communities manage.  Across 5,000 square kilometers (1,930 square miles), its communities have worked on sustainably certified-timber harvest, non-timber production such as chewing gum and honey collection, and tourism. These activities support the local economy while responsibly managing the protected areas that are home to many endangered species.

Amigos del Lago supports the planting of more than 275,000 trees/yr throughout the lake Atitlan basin.  Since 2016, this reforestation project has helped Atitlan recover more than 280 acres of forest. The most recent monitoring has shown a 70% success rate of planted trees measured by trees growing tall after 3 years. The reforestation project plans to surpass one million planted trees by June 2020. 

“The joint efforts of Amigos del Lago and local communities have shown tremendous progress in reforesting the Atitlan basin.  This success shows the power of community engagement and that it is possible to stop deforestation in Guatemala. People who support us through Zooterra can see the impact they are having on these forests and the people who depend on them,” says Jose Toriello,  President of Amigos del Lago.    

Sources & References

(1) Union of Concerned Scientists, “Measuring the Role of Deforestation in Global Warming” 

(2) WWF Website, 2018

(3) IPCC Special Report on Climate Change Report, 2019

(4) Convention on Biological Diversity, 2020 Aichi targets 

(5) Hansen/UMD/Google/USGS/NASA Tree Cover Loss and Gain Area (2000-2019)

(6) IUCN / UNEP