Preserving Panama’s Forest Riches
The tropical rain forests along South America's northwestern Pacific coast to where it connects with Central America is one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world.
The major threat to this ecosystem is deforestation. Road building and other development projects have seen about one-third of the area cleared or degraded. As part of a sustainable forest management and trade project coordinated by WWF, the region’s first sustainable harvesting plan has been launched, ensuring that forest areas are cut in 25-year cycles.
“This ensures that logging does not exceed what the forest can regenerate,” said Mauro Salazar, WWF Central America’s Forestry Director.
Under the plan, a limited number of mature trees are harvested the first year in one forest area, cutting only four to five trees per hectare so that the forest’s ecological integrity is not harmed. The oldest seed-producing trees are not cut down so as to ensure the survival of the species.
The following year logging would be allowed in a second area so that tree species in the first area could regenerate. A similar practice will continue in other areas throughout the forest over a 25-year logging cycle. When this cycle comes to an end, a new one will start again in the first area.
This model is based on the “Forests Forever” concept which takes into account the principles and criteria of the Forest Stewardship Council, the world’s leading forest certification organization.
“This overarching approach represents a practical tool for long-term conserving, especially as the forest remains nearly intact after an extraction,” Salazar added. ”At the same time it contributes to poverty alleviation.”
WWF promotes responsible forest management and trade as one of the best ways to conserve the forests over the long term, helping communities that own the forest to generate tangible economic benefits through careful resource management.
“The project means taking care of the forest, protecting it and creating jobs for our communities,” said Franklin Mezúa, an indigenous leader from the Embera-Wounaan community.
“Before we were working with the WWF model, timber companies took advantage of our indigenous communities by buying large amounts of wood and leaving little benefit for us, at prices way below market levels,” Mezúa added. “Today we have higher earnings and we are sure that our children will enjoy these beautiful forests.”
Photos © Miguel Armando Pacheco / WWF-Canon