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Guatemala Forest Figures

Forest Cover
Total forest area: 3,938,000 ha
% of land area: 36.3%

Primary forest cover: 1,957,000 ha
% of land area: 18.0%
% total forest area: 49.7%

Deforestation Rates, 2000-2005
Annual change in forest cover: -54,000 ha
Annual deforestation rate: -1.3%
Change in defor. rate since '90s: 12.8%
Total forest loss since 1990: -810,000 ha
Total forest loss since 1990:-17.1%

Primary or "Old-growth" forests
Annual loss of primary forests: -26800 ha
Annual deforestation rate: -1.3%
Change in deforestation rate since '90s: 12.8%
Primary forest loss since 1990: -134,000 ha
Primary forest loss since 1990:-17.0%

Forest Classification
Public: 42.2%
Private: 52.5%
Other: 5.3%
Production: 26.8%
Protection: n/a
Conservation: 62.3%
Social services: n/a
Multiple purpose: n/a
None or unknown: 10.9

Forest Area Breakdown
Total area: 3,938,000 ha
Primary: 1,957,000 ha
Modified natural: 1,859,000 ha
Semi-natural: n/a
Production plantation: 122,000 ha
Production plantation: n/a

Plantations, 2005: 122,000 ha
% of total forest cover: 3.1%
Annual change rate (00-05): 6,800,000 ha

Carbon storage
Above-ground biomass: 755 M t
Below-ground biomass: 241 M t

Area annually affected by
Fire: 68,000 ha
Insects: 1,000 ha
Diseases: n/a

Number of tree species in IUCN red list
Number of native tree species: 700
Critically endangered: 2
Endangered: 30
Vulnerable: 51

Wood removal 2005
Industrial roundwood: 623,000 m3 o.b.
Wood fuel: 18,622,000 m3 o.b.

Value of forest products, 2005
Industrial roundwood: $37,709,000
Wood fuel: $159,110,000
Non-wood forest products (NWFPs): n/a
Total Value: $196,819,000

More forest statistics for Guatemala

Guatemala has one of the most extensive and diverse forest systems in Central America. The country is home to 1,246 known species of amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles, and 8,681 species of plants, of which 13.5 percent are endemic. Today forest covers between a quarter and a third of the country, but this is fast disappearing. Between 1990 and 2005, Guatemala lost 17 percent of its total forest cover and deforestation rates have increased by nearly 13 percent since the close of the 1990s.

Guatemala's rural population is among the poorest in Central America. As such, people's day-to-day survival is dependent upon natural resource use. Most rural Guatemalans have few employment options; they must live off the land that surrounds them making use of whatever resources they can find. Their poverty and relative lack of opportunity mean the country's forests are falling at one of the highest rates in Latin America. Official figures show that around 80,000 hectares are deforested annually, though some organizations say the figure may be closer to 95,000 hectares—or 3 percent of the country's forests—per year. Not even national parks are safe. Recent surveys have found extensive illegal logging in the Mayan Biosphere Reserve and the Laguna del Tigre national park. While such logging tends to be destructive, environmental groups are working to develop community-based conservation projects that use sustainable harvesting techniques to reduce the impact on the forest ecosystem.

Most forest loss in Guatemala results from colonization, which leads to agriculture and fuelwood collection. Population pressures around protected areas result in illegal timber harvesting and land clearing for agriculture in national parks. Fires set for land clearing in nearby fields often spread into protected forest areas. For example, in 1998 fires burned more than 160,000 acres (65,000 hectares) of the Maya Biosphere Reserve. While 27 percent of Guatemala's land is protected, most of these areas generally amount to little more than paper parks.

Gold mining, road construction, and land clearing for cattle pasture are also considered important factors in the ongoing disappearance of Guatemala's forests.

The continuing loss of Guatemala's forests could prove costly for the country. New research suggests that the great Mayan civilization of the past was done in by a familiar problem: deforestation. Already deforestation has had a significant environmental impact in Guatemala. In parts of the country soil erosion reduces agricultural yields while deforested hillsides are more susceptible to landslides during tropical storms that batter the country. In 2005, mudslides attributed to tropical storm Stan killed more than 1,500 people in the country.

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Last updated: 5 Feb 2006