Sunday 19 September 2021

Costa Rica forest cover is growing, went from 47% to almost 60%

Forest cover grew in the last two decades thanks to incentives for protection, the private network of biological reserves and the reduction of livestock activity

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QCOSTARICA – Costa Rica is a greener country today than it was 20 years ago, as forest coverage reached 59% in 2020, from the 47% at the beginning of the century, according to World Bank measurement parameters.

Costa Rican forest cover is growing, according to the World Bank. In the image, a tourist visits the Monteverde Biological Reserve, in Puntarenas.

This recovery recorded in the last two decades was documented in the latest Report on the State of the Region (Central America) – Informe del Estado de la Región (Centroamérica), which has been prepared since 1996 as part of the State of the Nation (Estado de la Nacion) program.

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The study on sustainable human development places Costa Rica as the most forested country in Central America, as well as the one that has recovered the most forest mass since 2000.

How do we make that breakthrough?

According to researcher Alberto Mora Román, director of the State of the Region, in the process, both conservationist public policy efforts and non-favored socioeconomic changes converged that favored the reforestation of the national territory.

Among the latter, he mentioned, for example, less use of space in the livestock industry.

“It has multiple origins. On the one hand, livestock activity has been contracting over the last decades. That freed up territory that was dedicated to pasture and allowed, in many cases, natural regeneration.

“To this are also added the incentives and programs promoted by the State, mainly Payment for Environmental Services (PES). These are incentives that do not necessarily exist in the other countries of the region, they are very particular to Costa Rica.

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“The other element is the rise of protected areas, especially the private network of biological reserves, which has come to contribute to this process of recovery of forest cover.

The reduction of the livestock industry in Costa Rica led to the natural regeneration of large hectares of land that was previously occupied by this activity, according to the State of the Region. Photo: Albert Marín

“What is clear is that coverage has been increasing. In 2020, Costa Rica is the country with the highest proportion of its territory dedicated to forest cover. This is consistent with our vocation of nature conservation and environmental reflection,” he affirmed.

For Gilmer Navarrete, director of the PSA program of the National Forest Financing Fund (Fonafifo), the path was directed by the implementation of public policies, supported by better environmental education among the new generations.

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“The results are attributable to the efforts of the State in matters of legislation, policies and the development of financial mechanisms that, since the 70s, have been developing, without neglecting how important the environmental issue has been in the education programs promoted by the Ministry of Public Education (MEP) at all levels,” said the engineer.

The World Bank data, however, is not recognized as official in the country.

This is because the analyzes are based on the United Nations Framework Convention definition of forest. The Costa Rican Forestry Law (Ley Forestal) has a stricter definition. Therefore, the figures are not comparable with each other.

According to information issued by the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC), the forest cover of Costa Rica represented 52.4% of the national territory in 2015, according to the definition of the Forestry Law.

Fonafifo participated in the elaboration of the forest cover maps of Costa Rica for the years 1997, 2000, 2005 and 2010. These were made through Landsat satellite images under the same methodology, which allows them to be compared with each other.

Costa Rica had 42% forest cover in 1997. However, this proportion grew to 52.38% for 2010. As can be seen in the official maps, the forest recovery took place mainly in the North and Central Pacific.

However, this measurement is different from the one recorded in the State of the Region Report based on the World Bank definition of forests.


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