Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Forest islands in a sea of Oil Palm

4 October, 2017 - 10:19 -- World Land Trust
Oil Palm nuts
Supermarket aisle

Lipstick, chocolate, shampoo, ice cream, bread, ketchup, Nutella, detergent, fizzy drinks… the world’s most popular vegetable oil can be found everywhere you look in the supermarket. It is used in half of all packaged food worldwide, and as the world’s population increases, so does the demand for this highly-saturated vegetable fat, which is grown best in wet and warm conditions- rainforest territories.

Plantations of African Oil Palm, farmed for Palm Oil, Palm Kernel Oil and their derivatives, cover millions of hectares of land in the tropics, causing huge losses in biodiversity and rich tropical habitats with high carbon storage around the world. But the incredibly high demand for this product promises wealth and prosperity for populations living in developing countries in the tropics such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Colombia and Nigeria.

Growing Oil Palm in Guatemala

According to the Oil Palm Growers’ Guild in Guatemala (GREPALMA), Oil Palm plantations in Guatemala have the highest productivity per hectare of any country in the world. The world average in palm oil productivity is four tonnes per hectare, whereas Guatemala is reportedly producing seven.

So the Palm Oil industry in Guatemala is expanding rapidly to capitalise on the high yields that can be produced by plantations in the northern lowlands and exported to the European Union, United States and Mexico.  This threatens the remaining wild habitats left in the departments of Alta Verapaz, Izabal, Quiché and Petén, which would need to be cleared to capitalise on the potential productivity GREPALMA is hoping for.

Environmental effects

At the moment GREPALMA reports that there is about 370,000 acres (150,000 hectares) of cultivated Oil Palm plantations in Guatemala, representing four per cent of the total agricultural area of the country. The native biodiversity and carbon storage within oil palm plantations is relatively high compared to other agricultural land uses. However, there is no doubt that the native habitat of tropical forests which were originally cleared had much higher species diversity and carbon storage.

“Deforestation has transformed these forests once again into islands in the middle of a very barren landscape. ”
Marco Cerezo, FUNDAECO

In regions such as the mountains of Izabal, the issue is not just with biodiversity loss but also the permanent loss of unique wildlife. Marco Cerezo, General Director of Foundation for Eco-development and Conservation (FUNDAECO), explains why these mountains need to be preserved for their unique species:

“What we have is isolated evolutionary processes,” says Marco. “So even though one mountain range is only 20km or 25km away from another mountain range, we have unique species of frogs, unique species of insects and trees that evolved in this isolated mountain range and now deforestation has transformed these forests once again into islands in the middle of a very barren landscape.”

Protecting the forest islands

Map of the Conservation CoastMarco’s organisation FUNDAECO have been working to protect the legacy of Guatemala’s unique wildlife in the Caribbean and the watersheds which supply communities with freshwater from the mountains by creating several protected areas in Izabal, pictured right (click to enlarge).

At the moment World Land Trust (WLT) is working with FUNDAECO to create a 2,500 acre (1,000 hectare) core reserve which could be expanded to protect the whole Sierra Santa Cruz mountain range, the last unprotected rainforest in Caribbean Guatemala.

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Donate below to help WLT reach the £625,000 target needed to protect this important habitat from deforestation. All donations made between October 4 – 18 will be doubled by WLT’s match sponsors.

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You can also donate by texting TTCA17 with an amount up to £10 to 70070.

Comments

Submitted by Thomas Wellens on

Dear WLT,

I'm absolutely saddened by the clearing of primary forests. The only way we can keep this earth habitable is by saving our forest and nature. What you guys are doing is awesome and I would like to support you (and convince others to do so too). But I have a question concerning the Punta de Manabique protected area.
If you look closely at the area with Google Maps, almost all of the protected area has been cleared :( How can this be a protected area? All the money spend there hasn't done a lot apparently :(

I want to make sure my support is going to areas that will definitely be saved when bought. But what is happening with Punta de Manabique doesn't give me a lot of hope..

I hope some day, somehow the people in Guatemala, Belize, Brazil and the entire world will understand that we have to protect our forests to save our planet. And that the world will not be saved by driving expensive electric vehicules or placing solar panels on rooftops...

Hoping for a beter future and a global stop of deforestation (one can dream...)

Friendly regards,
Thomas (from Flanders)

Submitted by World Land Trust on

Dear Thomas,

WLT partner FUNDAECO creates protected areas as land management instruments for biodiversity protection and sustainable production of environmental goods and services.

The map showing Punta de Manabique found in this page highlights the entire protected area classified by Guatemalan law. Recognising an area legally is often only one protection level in a range of models to ensure the conservation of an area and our partners use a number of initiatives to best conserve this region.

Each protected area is split into different zones, including Core Zones, Multiple Use Zones, Forest Zones, Ecotourism Zone and Public Use, and Buffer Zones, among others.

The highly protected wildlife reserves form the core zones, (shown here in green http://fundaeco.org.gt/english/working-areas/data-sheets/punta-de-manabi... ). These areas have high biological importance and are the best remaining examples of primary habitat. Supported by WLT, FUNDEACO often use land purchase to protect the most vulnerable areas to create these core zones or strict conservation areas. Surrounding these private reserves and core areas but within the wider protected areas FUNDEACO works with communities to; promote the sustainable use of resources,  develop agroforestry. promote ecotourism and ensure more sustainable agricultural practices.

The Santa Cruz project (Treasure Chest Appeal) for which WLT is currently raising funds, focuses on purchasing key threatened sites to create the core (strict protection) of this new protected area.

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