Population movements and money remittances spur forest regrowth

Aug 31, 2007

A study of forest cover in El Salvador in the September issue of BioScience presents novel findings on how economic globalization, land policy changes, and monies sent to family members by emigrants have transformed agriculture and stimulated forest regrowth. The study, by Susanna B. Hecht and Sassan S. Saatchi, employed socioeconomic data, land-use surveys, and satellite imagery to document substantial increases in the area of El Salvador covered by both light and heavy woodland since peace accords were signed in 1992.

Most analyses of forest cover in Central America have focused on loss of old-growth forests. In drawing attention to regrowth of woodland in a country that was extensively deforested during the 1970s, Hecht and Saatchi call for a renewed examination of social and economic influences on agricultural practices and their effects on forest extent. New growth forests, most often in a mosaic along with agriculture, can buffer declines in biological diversity and are extensively used by old growth species.

War drove many people to flee El Salvador during the 1980s and early 1990s, which led to many farms being abandoned. The country experienced a net increase in tree cover thereafter. Hecht and Saatchi found a 22 percent increase in the area with 30 percent tree cover, and a 6.5 percent increase in the area with more than 60 percent tree cover. Policies that encouraged sustainable agriculture contributed to the increase, the authors maintain.

Strikingly, they also found a strong link between forest resurgence and remittances of money from family members abroad, chiefly the United States. More than a sixth of El Salvador's population left during the fighting, which helps explain why remittances now exceed direct foreign investment more than eightfold. Apparently, households receiving funds from abroad felt less need to maintain existing fields and also cleared less land. Conservationists should be more cognizant of the power of remittances and agricultural policies to benefit forest regrowth, according to Hecht and Saatchi.

Source: American Institute of Biological Sciences

Explore further: Salmon forced to 'sprint' less likely to survive migration

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Borneo deforested 30 percent over past 40 years

Jul 16, 2014

Forest cover in Borneo may have declined by up to 30% over the past 40 years, according to a study published July 16, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by David Gaveau from the Center for International Forestry Resear ...

What geology has to say about global warming

Jul 14, 2014

Last month I gave a public lecture entitled, "When Maine was California," to an audience in a small town in Maine. It drew parallels between California, today, and Maine, 400 million years ago, when similar ...

China arms itself for difficult 'war on pollution'

Jul 08, 2014

Having declared "war on pollution", China is arming itself with tougher weapons from new courts to daily fines and shutting down offenders altogether, in what analysts call promising steps but no guarantee ...

Recommended for you

Orb-weaving spiders living in urban areas may be larger

12 hours ago

A common orb-weaving spider may grow larger and have an increased ability to reproduce when living in urban areas, according to a study published August 20, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Eli ...

User comments : 0