The objective of this report is to explore the impact of agriculture on biodiversity conservation in Central America, identify the factors which perpetuate or exacerbate agricultural systems or management practices that adversely impact biodiversity conservation, and examine different strategies and approaches that could be used to potentially mitigate some of the negative impacts of agriculture on biodiversity conservation, either by making the agricultural systems more compatible with biodiversity conservation, or by removing the stimuli for agricultural expansion into remaining natural areas or unsustainable agricultural practices.
Agriculture is widely considered the single most important threat to biodiversity conservation and the greatest driver of habitat destruction and change in Central America. Historically, agriculture has had a negative impact on biodiversity conservation primarily through the expansion of the agricultural frontier, at the expense of natural habitat. Today, the nature of the threat of agriculture to biodiversity conservation has changed. While agriculture continues to drive deforestation in the few remaining, remote areas where the agricultural frontier still exists, the main impact of agriculture is now due to the intensification of existing agricultural systems (and the concurrent increased use of pesticides, fertilizers and other inputs, the loss of hedgerows/live fences and natural habitats within these systems and the greater pressure on the remaining natural resources) and to a lesser degree, changes in the configuration of agricultural landscapes.
In this report, we begin by introducing the Central American region, its biodiversity and main agricultural systems. We then discuss the three main tendencies of agriculture in the region -the expansion of the agricultural frontier, the intensification of existing agricultural systems, and changes in the composition and structure of agricultural landscapes - and the factors that cause these changes. Next, we examine how agriculture affects biodiversity in the region and the factors that influence these effects. Finally, we consider ways in which the impact of agriculture on biodiversity conservation can be mitigated through both the technological, macroeconomic, regulatory and market-based interventions.
Celia A. Harvey and Mario Chacón
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