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    Disappearing Mangroves in Guatemala

    By Keith R | July 14, 2009

    Topics: Conservation, Environmental Services | No Comments »

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    I read an interesting article from Tierramérica about Guatemala’s disappearing mangroves and a discussion of probable causes and possible impacts.  I’ve mentioned here before on The Temas Blog about the importance of mangroves (here, here, here, here and here) in preventing sediment runoff and filtering out contaminants before they enter the sea, stabilizing coastlines, impeding salinization, helping protect reefs, providing a nursery for many aquatic species and a home for many birds and mammals.  In short, mangroves provide quite a few valuable ecosystem services.

    The article discusses how Guatemala is losing about 73,000 hectares of mangrove every year.  The causes?  The article suggests several, including construction of tourism complexes, shrimp farming, but most of all agricultural activities — cotton and African palm.

    An environmentalist quoted in the article goes further, suggesting most of the blame for deforestation in Guatemala may fall on palm and sugarcane farming aimed at biofuel markets.  They point to the fact that in 2003 Guatemala had 31,185 hectares devoted to African palm, whereas just four years later the figure had more than doubled to 65,340 ha.  [Temas Observation: Okay, but what is not entirely clear to me from the article is whether these new farms for biofuel inputs are really the cause of mangrove deforestation, rather than deforestation generally.  Is the soil and watertable in lands covered by mangroves really good for sugarcane cultivation?]

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