San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Good News, Bad News for Latin America’s Environment

Latin America is losing forest cover but gaining protected areas.

According to a report released Wednesday by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the region has boosted the amount of land dedicated to biodiversity conservation by 10 percent since 1990 – from 9.5 percent then to 19.5 percent in 2009.

The Statistical Yearbook for Latin American and the Caribbean 2009, an analysis that gauges changes in the use of Latin America’s natural resources during the past two decades, also found the amount of forested territory decreased from 48.8 percent to 44.9 percent between 1990 and 2007.

The 2009 breakdown takes the good with the bad.

From 1989 to 2008, Latin America decreased the overall amount of harmful ozone particles that it released from 74,500 tons to 6,700 tons.

But the indicators also demonstrate a sustained increase in the use of environmentally damaging agrochemicals, high levels of air and water contamination and large numbers of endangered species of plants and animals.

The report concludes that over the last 20 years the environment in Latin America has improved in some areas, but worsened in others.

Visit CEPAL’s website for more on the report.

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