The Natures of Progress: Land Use Dynamics and Forest Trends in Latin America and the Caribbean

Feb 2012
Catastrophic deforestation and environmental degradation have become habits of thought about forest landscapes in Latin America's tropics. Yet these truisms blind analysts to three surprising changes. First, deforestation has slowed dramatically. Next, forest resurgence-largely a function of natural regeneration-is widely documented throughout the region on previously deforested lands. Finally, the importance of tree systems and complex environmental mosaics in working landscapes to produce livelihoods and environmental services and as supporting matrices for conservation is increasingly recognized. These dynamics over the last decade would have been unimaginable in the 1980s, the period that most shaped Euro-American perceptions of tropical forest trends. Deforestation "hot spots", each with a different political ecology, remain and command attention, but it is important to recognize that platforms for alternatives exist. Latin America has become an innovator in tropical environmental policy, institutions, incentives, and practices that support forested landscapes. These dynamics and other related issues will be further elucidated in this document.