Conservation offers economic benefits

UN warns of risks to region´s economies if biodiversity and environmental health are not preserved, the Latin American Press reports.

Six of the world’s most biologically diverse countries in the world are in Latin America. Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Venezuela and Peru cover 10 percent of the Earth’s surface, but are home to 70 percent of the planet’s mammal, bird, reptile, amphibians, insects and plants in the world.
South America alone has more than 40 percent of the world’s biodiversity and more than a quarter of its forests.
The Mesoamerican Reef is the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. Central America covers 0.5 percent of the Earth’s surface and has 10 percent of its plant and animal species. Half of the plant species in the Caribbean aren’t found anywhere else on the planet.
In its report “Latin America and the Caribbean: A Biodiversity Superpower,” the United Nations Development Program, or UNDP, warns the region’s governments and companies about the economic risks caused by industries that affect biodiversity.
The report compared the value of unsustainable practices with those that aim to maintain ecosystems. The UN agency said the more than 4,400 protected areas throughout the region, covering around 5 million square kilometers (2 million square miles), of which 22 percent are marine, need to be protected.
These protected areas benefit the farming and fishing industries as well as tourism, said the report. Those areas have to fend off illegal occupation, logging, hydrological changes, pesticides, farming chemicals, fires, soil erosion, hunting and infrastructure projects, it added.
According to the UNDP, the region’s 18 largest economies spend US$382 million a year to maintain protected areas, 55 percent of what is necessary for this activity, and the deficit is what opens the door to unsustainable activities in these areas.

For the original report go to http://lapress.org/articles.asp?art=6487

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