Introduction to the Maya Project Introduction to The Selva Maya Principal Agents of Tropical Deforestation The Maya Project Components - Activities and Results


Orange groves have displaced native
habitats in some cases in Belize.


Globally, the main proximate agents leading to tropical forest destruction and modification are: shifting cultivation (mainly non-mechanized, subsistence cultivation), "industrial scale" agriculture and plantations, cattle ranching, commercial logging, mining, and construction of dams. To this list may be added firewood gathering, urbanization, and other miscellaneous human activities.

Banana plantations have claimed 
huge areas of coastal plains rain
forest in Central America.

The ultimate factors underlying these proximate agents are more social and economical in nature, and include lack of access to land ownership, high costs of renting land, poor levels of education, lack of employment, and other similar factors.

Some other threats to tropical biota do not stem from deforestation. Indeed, it is distressingly possible to visit forests that appear beautifully intact, and yet are strangely silent. Human hunting for meat--both subsistence hunting and market hunting--is an important and growing menace to tropical forest biota (Redford 1992, Robinson and Redford 1994, Robinson and Bennett 1999).

 Creation of cattle pastures is a 
major source of deforestation
in certain portions of Latin America.

Other important factors affecting tropical forests include global climate change and invasive exotic species.

It is beyond our scope here to describe all of these factors. Much has been written about the importance of these various agents of tropical deforestation, and a wealth of information is available on the worldwide web. Some useful published sources are listed at the end of this section.

 Log yard of a mahogany-logging 
operation in Chiapas, Mexico.


Here we discuss two land uses whose effects on forest biota we studied: shifting agriculture and selective mahogany logging.




Maya Project Introduction | The Selva Maya | Tropical Deforestation | Maya Project


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This section has been developed for The Peregrine Fund by
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Last Revised:  12/10/08