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BIOL3465 Tropical Forest Ecology and Use



Report into Rainforests in the 21st Century: Status, Trends and Prospects

Jessica Ghingooree

Table of Contents
Background Summary.........................................................................................3
Main Threats to Tropical Rainforests Globally........................................................5
Sustainable Industries for Tropical Rainforests......................................................6


The term Biodiversity as proposed by the United Nations (UN) is the variety
and differences among living organisms from all sources, including terrestrial, marine,
and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are a part.
This includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems (Baydack,
Campa, & Haufler, 1999; Canhos, de Souza, De Giovanni, & Canhos, 2004).
Conservation is defined as management of human use of biosphere so that it
may yield sustainable benefit to the present generation while maintaining its potential to
meet the needs and aspirations of posterity (Frissell & Bayles, 1996; Grumbine, 1994).
Biodiversity is an important element in any assessment of conservation as it is
the cornerstone of our existence here on Earth. Biodiversity enhances ecosystem
efficiency where all species, play an important role no matter how small. In terms of
economics approximately 40% of the worlds trade market and 80 % of the necessities
of the poor are derivatives of biological resources (Yachi & Loreau, 1999). Moreover, the
more affluent the diversity of life, the grander the opportunity for higher economic
development, research and development in medical discoveries, and more importantly
adaptive responses to such new challenges as climate change (Canhos et al., 2004).
Latin America and the Caribbean account for a relatively modest 12 percent of
the worlds greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (Kurukulasuriya & Rosenthal, 2013), with
Trinidad and Tobago probably being the higher contributor among CARICOM nations.
The effects of these emissions are already being felt by communities across the region

that suffering adverse consequences from climate change and variability in terms of
higher sea levels, flooding, loss of mangroves habitats, inundation of coastal cities, and
large-scale ecosystem transformations. (Verner, 2010, 2011).
This brings to the fore the importance of tropical rain forest to act as a sink for
GHG in an effort to reduce global warming. Therefore its no wonder that rainforest
destruction is one of the most studied but intractable global environmental problems
today. In that no longer does the world view tropical forests ingenuously as commodities
to be exploited to the maximum extent possible. Contrary to earlier thinking, rainforests
are biologically rich, an extremely fragile and complex ecosystems with limited
regeneration potential. Their biological affluence is in the canopy not in the soil/ and
thus intensive development effectively converts rainforests into a non-renewable
resource. Thus, science counsels that these resources should be conserved and
managed to sustain a variety of commodity and non-commodity uses, but the
economics and culture of under development propel the host countries toward rapid
Therefore the purpose of this project is to manage the Trinidad and Tobago
natural resource rainforest which is still makes up 46% of the countries natural
vegetation (Kenny, 2008). The current status quo of Trinidad highly industrialize sector
together with government policies for housing and development the need for land
resources are highly prevalent. In Trinidad and Tobago very little polices exist for the
protection of these rain forest and it is the direct intervention of non-governmental
organizations provides the impetus to help deter private and public sector advancement
into our rain forest.

The recent two year ban on hunting has brought much controversy to the fore but
the need to maintain a balance within our ecosystem is of critical importance to ensure
its survivability. It is with this view, the use of environmentally sustainable and
conformity to conservation of biodiversity principles is needed in order to protect the
countries rain forest ecosystems.

Background Summary
Deforestation in the tropics, together with effects of climate change, loss of
biodiversity, and taking away of constructive ecosystem functions, has arisen as a
challenge of global significance. Policy-makers and researchers have established many
mechanisms and tools to slow or stop the loss of tropical forests; including establishing
protected areas and reducing or eliminating subsidies and other incentives which
encourage deforestation. As part of this process, there is a need to expand the
understanding of the range of values which can be attributed to rainforests. These
values include medicinal, non-timber products, biodiversity and ecotourism values
(Laurance, 1999; Maloney, 1998; Menkhaus & Lober, 1996). These latter values are
often excluded or inaccurately measured in most market transactions.
The deforestation and degradation trends of tropical rainforest globally can be
seen in Table 1, where it is shown that in each country every year some portion of the
rain forest is being destroyed. Countries such as Brazil and Indonesia are of particular
concerns. Deforestation (cutting down trees) is a major problem caused by humans in
the tropical rainforest. Laurance (2009) indicated that the global rates of deforestation is
at 2.47 acres (1 hectare) is destroyed per second: equivalent to two U.S. football field.

Even though, the historic and present economic and institutional incentives that
promote rapid timber harvest, agricultural conversion practices, and the local, regional,
and global environmental economic costs of rainforest loss are well understood
(Cassells, Bonell, & Hamilton, 1987). There is a huge body of popular and scholarly
literature which extols the virtues of rainforest conservation and condemns rapid
exploitation for short term economic profit (Grether, Millie, Bryant, Reznick, & Mayea,
2001; Kenny, 2008; Liang et al., 2011; Menkhaus & Lober, 1996; Scatena, 2001). But,
like over-fishing of straddling ocean stocks, over hunting of our forest animals, illegal
logging and mining shows that the problem persists (Laurance, 1999, 2009; Lefevre &
Rodd, 2009).
Tarlock (1997) indicated that international law alone cannot solve the host
countries' lack of capacity to control destructive uses. If tropical rainforest destruction is
to be replaced with sustainable forest use practices, the primary implementation burden
falls on the host countries. However, international law can perhaps make a modest
contribution to the development of indirect restraints which can influence and reinforce
both international and domestic rainforest conservation policies by providing a standard
that can measure specific actions, serve as a deterrent to the adoption of destructive
policies, and provide a basis for internal and external sanctions.
The main determinants of forest exploitation are population pressures and
national development and settlement policies. The creation of counterincentives to the
historic pattern of under regulated exploitation involves the highly politically sensitive
issues of population control and distribution, economic growth rates, and property
entitlement regimes. Therefore the only the concept for rain forest protection is that of

sustainable conservation development practice which holds out the possibility of

addressing the legitimate development needs of the rainforest host nations (Laurance,
1999, 2009; Verner, 2010, 2011).

Table 1: Showing the state of the worlds tropical rainforests: statistics on the forests
and human populations of major rainforest countries

Main Threats to Tropical Rainforests Globally

Several Forest Reserves have lost a significant proportion of their forest to illegal
logging, hunting, fires, agriculture - shifted cultivators, cattle ranching, fuelwood, building
of dams, mining and industry, colonization schemes and tourism. The underlying cause
for this is lost is due to countries need for development and overconsumption: the basic
cause colonialism, exploitation by industrialized countries that is the need for resources,

the debt burden of a country and the role of poverty and overpopulation (Laurance,
2009; Maloney, 1998).
In Trinidad and Tobago one of the major problems to deforestation is squatters,
the problem is especially serious on the hills of the northern range where watershed
protection functions are likely to be seriously compromised by squatters who clear land
on steep slopes. Squatting may be the most serious threat to the sustainable
development of the forests of Trinidad and needs urgent government attention.
However the issue is apparently highly politicized. Another major cause is strip mining
of sand and gravel has degraded forests in large areas of the Forest Reserves
especially along the southern foothills of the Northern Range. The Valencia forest
Reserve in the NW Conservancy has been especially hard hit. Mined areas are never
rehabilitated and are abandoned to grasslands and scrub. Again there is a problem of a
lack of inter-departmental co-ordination. The Ministry of Energy and Mines awards
leases without adequate consultation with the Forest Department - in addition many
mines are illegal. But the capacity and political will to bring this situation under control
appears to be lacking (ITTO, 2003).

Sustainable Industries for Tropical Rainforests

Sustainable industries for tropical rainforests, is the use of timber labelling
Certification of timber traded on the international market has been seen as a tool for the
protection of primary forests. By far the most successful certification scheme was
initiated by the Forest Stewarship Council (FSC) in 1993. The FSC is an independent
international organization based in Oaxaca in Mexico. Consumers are able to buy

timber which has been certified by the FSC in preference to those which have no
certification. If there is sufficient support for the FSC-certified timber, then demand for
timber from operations which are environmentally unsound will diminish, thereby
reducing the pressure on forests.
Poor farmers opening up rainforest land for subsistence farming are the agents
of more rainforest loss than any other single factor. Unless land reforms are enacted in
the near future, most tropical forests will perish. The logging industry also contributes to
the problem of land clearance by poor farmers because the roads constructed by
logging companies are the usual way that these farmers gain access to the forests.
Poverty, Debt and Inequality remains at the forefront in that more than $US1300 billion
is owed by the third world to rich countries (Laurance, 1999) and poor nations are
paying rich nations $50 billion a year more than they are receiving in aid (Verner, 2010).
Some of the countries with largest debts are also the countries with relatively large
areas of rainforest left. To repay the huge amounts owed, these countries have to
sacrifice their environment (as well as health and education). A spiral of poverty-induced
ecological degradation occurs.
It is clear then that without the cancellation of much of the third world's debt to
the industrialized countries, tropical deforestation is bound to continue. All international
debts entered into before 1980 for the 40 or so nations in trouble could be cancelled
immediately and the rest phased out over the next ten years. With the need to repay
loans removed, third world countries would be under less pressure to earn foreign
exchange by selling tropical timber and cash crops grown on cleared rainforest land
(Plumwood & Routley, 1982).

There needs to be greater equality of land, resources and income within third
world nations as well. Otherwise, exploitation of the poor by the ruling elites in third
world counties will perpetuate the current patterns of destruction. The current global
economy is based on the desire for continual, unlimited growth. This means using more
and more resources, encouraging overconsumption and waste. This is in direct conflict
with conservation and is based on the false assumption that the earth's resources are
infinite. It also requires that the rich minority of the world's population use resources
which belong to the world's poor, and this can only be done through the exploitation of
third world countries (Maloney, 1998; Olson & Dinerstein, 1998; Plumwood & Routley,
Long term security for the world's tropical forests can only be achieved if the
waste and injustice of the present global economic system is ended. Much theoretical
work has been done on this issue. What is needed for these theories to be applied is a
widespread change in values (Maloney, 1998; Olson & Dinerstein, 1998; Tarlock, 1997).
Other issues that need to be addressed for sustainable industrial practices are
population control. Although the role of overpopulation in the destruction of tropical
forest has been misrepresented, there can be no lasting solutions to this or any other
global environmental calamity until the problem of overpopulation is successfully
confronted. Solving the problem of overpopulation will involve: more widespread
acceptance of the importance of replacement reproduction (no more than two children
per couple), equality for women, education, particularly for women and cheap and
available contraception (Plumwood & Routley, 1982).

Further, education and research will play a big role in halting the destruction of
our forests. There is a need for more research into identifying species (before they
become extinct) and other services forests provide, apart from timber. These include
medicinal drugs, biological control of pests and diseases, dust removal from air, soil
generation and climate stabilization. These services need to be recognized. Education
regarding social values is also needed. An improved education system where people
learn to think for themselves and recognise themselves as part of nature is important.
Values of conformity, greed and dominion have contributed to our current predicament
(Maloney, 1998; Verner, 2010).

For sustainable development of the rainforest ecosystems the need for aid and
enough resources will be need for the development and to action change. If this exists it
will aid in the protection of our rain forest for future generations to use and enjoy.
However a number of measures must be taken. These include afforestation techniques
where trees should be replanted in areas of deforestation. Shifting Cultivation should be
monitored where farmers should move on after 2-3 years to allow the rainforest to
recover. Rubber tapping more sustainable methods of exploiting the rainforest should
be pursued and the use of recycled paper. Measuring trees in that trees should only be
cut down when they reach a certain size. This will ensure younger trees survive longer
and will encourage careful management of the rainforest.

The best tropical rainforest industries that are sustainable and profitable for
investment in the 21st Century will be that of cocoa and coffee plantations both of which
are rainforest type industries and can provide a strong economic backbone for a country
to earn foreign exchange. Other practices are to use indigenous forest for medicinal and
pharmaceutical companies. It is a well document that many of these indigenous trees
hold a variety of medicinal value. Further, as population recognise the importance of
tropical rain forest and the large amount of biodiversity and animal life is present, ecotourism will flourish. Persons from develop nations will flock to eco sites to observe both
fauna and flora and the trend will increase as this commodity becomes a rare site.

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