According to this new map produced by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Indigenous communities may play a crucial role in the preservation of Central America’s forests. The map, “Indigenous Peoples, Protected Areas and Natural Ecosystems in Central America,” is the most comprehensive map of its kind ever produced for the region. .
It used unpublished information gathered from interviews of more than 3,500 indigenous people. The resulting map shows that approximately 51 percent of Central America’s current forest cover is either inside or adjacent to indigenous territory. . “You cannot talk about conservation without speaking of indigenous peoples and their role as the guardians of our most delicate lands and waters,” said Grethel Aguilar, Regional Director of the IUCN Office for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, which is based in San José. .
A 2014 study showed that the presence of indigenous communities significantly lowers deforestation caused by drug traffickers operating illegally in remote parts of Central America, and country-specific programs have begun to involve indigenous people in the policing of protected areas. .
Along with highlighting the groups’ importance, the map has already begun helping indigenous communities assert their rights over their territories, such as in Panama and Guatemala. .
Comparing the new map to an approximate map from 1950, researchers noted that the region has lost as much as two-thirds of its original forests. . [Source: Tico Times, link in bio for full article and links to full resolution version of the map] .
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