National Geographic : 1983 Jan
Tropical rain forests: T" South America BRAZIL Earth's largest rain forest little disturbed except for fringes of southern Amazonia and areas in the east. Small chance of major losses in the west for the near future. PERU Vast area covered by undisturbed Amazon forest. Farm settlement expected to become more extensive in next decade or two. COLOMBIA About one-third forested, mostly in Amazon region, some along Pacific coast. Efforts to colonize have been slowed. VENEZUELA Large tract in south barely touched. Smaller areas in north heavily cut, converted to ranches and farms. GUYANA Most of population lives along coast. Little threat to forest. SURINAME Virgin rain forest covers most of country, much protected by parks and reserves. ECUADOR Large forests along Pacific already gone; oil exploration SEFT IN PEACE, rain forests Should ring the Equator with vegetation wherever days are hot and precipitation is high (map, dark green). But farming, ranching,logging, mining, and roads have greatly reduced their actual range. In central Africa and Amazonia huge tracts remain largely untouched, but rain forests have been virtually eliminated from most parts of West Africa, southern Asia, and the Caribbean. In 1980 the U. S. National Academy of Sciences estimated annualloss at 20 million 4, hectares (50 million o,, ^ o C SlERRA LEONE acres). The World Wildlife Fund speaks of 25 to 50 acres a minute. A 1982 study by two United Nations agencies reported 7.5 million hectares lost each year. Estimates vary so widely largely because of different criteria. To biologists, loss means either conversion of primary forest say, to agriculture, pasture, or tree plantations -or modification, implying biological impoverishment through selective logging or shifting cultivation. To foresters, loss means deforestation -the removal of aU trees. A world survey of rain forest status appears below. AF ICA w 'I,, and agriculture encroach on Ecuadorian Amazonia. FRENCH GUIANA Population lives along coast. Little pressure on undisturbed forest of interior. BOLIVIA Not much exploitation of forests yet. But government has begun roads, farming, and ranching. Caribbean Most island forests long ago reduced to remnants after heavy exploitation by dense populations. Small tracts survive, for example, in the DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO, and PUERTO RICO, where a U. S. national forest protects 104 square kilometers. MEXICO Shifting cultivators, timber harvesters, and cattle ranchers encroach on the country's last rain forest area on the southern border with Guatemala. 0 Central America A strong trend toward cattle ranching on this highly populated isthmus has greatly reduced primary forests, now believed to be two-thirds removed. Small areas found in the Pet6n region of northeastern GUATEMALA, the Mosquitia Forest of eastern HONDURAS, parts of eastern NICARAGUA, southern BELIZE, the national parks of COSTA RICA, and much of PANAMA. Africa ZAIRE Holds Africa's largest rain forest (nearly one-tenth world total), parts of it now secondary growth. Some clearing by slash-and-burn farmers in south, but vast areas still undamaged by mainly rural population. GABON Almost entirely forested, with exploitation just beginning.