The northwest province of Guanacaste has more forest now than it did two decades ago, according to a recent report by the National Fund for Forest Financing (FONAFIFO).
In 1986, 34% of Guanacaste was considered forested; last year that number increased to 52%, meaning of the province’s total 991,038 hectares, 515,340 are considered forested.
“The popular belief is that Guanacaste has no forest, and environmentalists say deforestation is increasing,” said Julio Calvo, professor in the forestry school at the Costa Rican Institute of Technology.
But Calvo explains that a fall in beef prices at the end of the 1980s caused many ranchers to abandon parts of their properties, leaving them to eventually regenerate forest. Furthermore, tourism, stronger conservation laws and improved ranching techniques and grasses, for which less land is necessary, have helped increase forested areas, Calvo explained.
“It’s a combination of all of these things, and of course national parks have helped as well,” he said. Despite the good results, of the 515,340 forested hectares, only 20% are protected.
Nearly 75,000 hectares are part of national parks, while 35,000 hectares are part of other forest conservation projects.
Calvo and other researchers performed a similar study in 1997, but were criticized for not defining what kind forest covered the province. This time, they have identified areas as early, intermediate, or late-growth forest.
“This way FONAFIFO knows what kind of carbon fixing is happening, because not all forests value the same,” Calvo said.
A similar study is being done for all of Costa Rica, and Calvo said he hopes results will be available by July.