10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26 Million ha
Figure 13.2. Total deforestation in Latin America (Mha) between 1990 and 2000. Number indicates deforestation rate (%/yr) for each country. Based on FAO (2001a).
Natural land cover has continued to decline at very high rates. In particular, rates of deforestation of tropical forests have increased during the last five years. Annual deforestation in Brazilian Amazonia increased by 32% between 1996 and 2000 (1.68 Mha) and 2001 and 2005 (2.23 Mha). However, the annual rate of deforestation decreased from 2.61 Mha in 2004 to 1.89 Mha in 2005 (INPE-MMA, 2005a, b, c). An area of over 60 Mha has been deforested in Brazilian Amazonia due to road construction and subsequent new urban settlements (Alves, 2002; Laurance et al., 2005). There is evidence that aerosols from biomass burning may change regional temperature and precipitation south of Amazonia (Andreae et al., 2004) and in neighbouring countries, including the Pampas as far south as Bahía Blanca (Trosnikov and Nobre, 1998; Mielnicki et al., 2005), with related health implications (increases in mortality risk, restricted activity days and acute respiratory symptoms) (WHO/UNEP/WMO, 2000; Betkowski, 2006).
The soybean cropping boom has exacerbated deforestation in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay (Fearnside, 2001; Maarten Dros, 2004). This critical land-use change will enhance aridity/desertification in many of the already water-stressed regions in South America. Major economic interests not only affect the landscape but also modify the water cycle and the climate of the region, in which almost three-quarters of the drylands are moderately or severely affected by degradation processes and droughts (Malheiros, 2004). The region contains 16% of the world total of 1,900 Mha of degraded land (UNEP, 2000). In Brazil, 100 Mha are facing desertification processes, including the semi-arid and dry sub-humid regions (Malheiros, 2004).
Changes in land use have led to habitat fragmentation and biodiversity loss. Climate change will increase the actual extinction rate, which is documented in the Red List of Endangered Species (IUCN, 2001). The majority of the endangered eco-regions are located in the northern and mid-Andes valleys and plateaux, the tropical Andes, in areas of cloud forest (e.g., in Central America), in the South American steppes, and in the Cerrado and other dry forests located in the south of the Amazon Basin (Dinerstein et al., 1995; UNEP, 2003a) (see Figure 13.5). Among the species to disappear are Costa Rica's golden toad (Bufo periglenes) and harlequin frog (Atelopus spp.) (Shatwell, 2006). In addition, at least four species of Brazilian anurans (frogs and toads) have declined as a result of habitat alteration (Eterovick et al., 2005), and two species of Atelopus have disappeared following deforestation (La Marca and Reinthaler, 2005). Deforestation and forest degradation through forest fires, selective logging, hunting, edge effects and forest fragmentation are the dominant transformations that threaten biodiversity in South America (Fearnside, 2001; Peres and Lake, 2003; Asner etal., 2005).
Panama and Belize Caribbean case studies illustrate, in terms of inter-ocean contrasts, both the similarities and differences in coral-reef responses to complex environmental changes (Gardner et al., 2003; Buddemeier et al., 2004). Cores taken from the Belizean barrier reef show that A. cervicornis dominated this coral-reef community continuously for at least 3,000 years, but was killed by white band disease (WBD) and replaced by another species after 1986 (Aronson and Precht, 2002). Dust transported from Africa to America (Shinn et al., 2000), and land-derived flood plumes from major storms, can transport materials from the Central American mainland to reefs, which are normally considered remote from such influences, as potential sources of pathogens, nutrients and contaminants. Human involvement has also been a factor in the spread of the pathogen that killed the Caribbean Diadema; the disease began in Panama, suggesting a possible link to shipping through the Panama Canal (Andrefouet et al., 2002). Since 1980 about 20% of the world's mangrove forests have disappeared (FAO, 2006), affecting fishing. In the Mesoamerican reef there are up to 25 times more fish of some species on reefs close to mangrove areas than in areas where mangroves have been destroyed (WWF, 2004).
From 1950 to the end of the 1970s Latin America benefited from an average annual GDP growth of 5% (Escaith, 2003). This remarkable growth rate permitted the development of national industries, urbanisation, and the creation or extension of national education and public health services. The strategy for economic development was based on the import-substitution model, which consisted of imposing barriers to imports and developing national industry to produce what was needed. Nevertheless, this model produced a weak industry that was not able to compete in international markets and this had terrible consequences for the other sectors (agriculture in particular) which funded the industrial development.
In the 1980s the region faced a great debt crisis which forced countries to make efforts to implement rigorous macroeconomic measures regarding public finances in order to liberate the economy. Control of inflation and public deficit became the main targets of most governments. Deterioration of economic and social conditions, unemployment, extension of the informal economy and poverty characterised this decade. In most of Latin America, the results of economic liberalisation can be characterised by substantial heterogeneity and volatility in long-term growth, and modest (or even negative) economic growth (Solimano and Soto, 2005).
This shift of the economic paradigm produced contradictory results. On the one hand, the more-liberalised economies attained greater economic growth than less-liberalised economies and achieved higher levels of democracy. On the other hand, there was an increase in volatility which led to recurrent crises, poverty and increasing inequality. The governments have failed to create strong social safety nets to ameliorate social conditions (Huber and Solt, 2004).
In Latin America the wealthiest 10% of the population own between 40% and 47% of the national income while the poorest 20% have only 2-4%. This type of income distribution is comparable only to some African and ex-USSR countries (Ferroni, 2005). The lack of equity in education, health services, justice and access to credit can restrain economic development, reduce investment and allow poverty to persist. A study conducted by CEPAL (2002) concludes that the likelihood of the poorest Latin American countries reaching the 7% GDP growth they need is almost zero in the medium term. Even the wealthier countries in the region will find it hard to reach a 4.1% GDP growth target. Predictions for GDP growth in the region for 2015 range from 2.1% to 3.8%, which is very far from the 5.7% average estimated as necessary to reduce poverty.
The combination of low economic growth and high levels of inequality can make large parts of the region's population very vulnerable to economic and natural stressors, which would not necessarily have to be very large in order to cause great social damage (UNDP-GEF, 2003). The effects of climate change on national economies and official development assistance have not been considered in most vulnerability assessments. The impact of climate change in Latin America's productive sectors is estimated to be a 1.3% reduction in the region's GDP for an increase of 2°C in global temperature (Mendelsohn et al., 2000). However, this impact is likely to be even greater because this estimation does not include non-market sectors and extreme events (Stern, 2007). If no structural changes in economic policy are made to promote investment, employment and productivity, economic and social future scenarios for the region do not hold the economic growth needed for its development, unless an uncommon combination of external positive shocks occurs (Escaith, 2003).
13.2.5 Current adaptation
The mega 1982/83 El Niño set in motion an international effort (the Tropical Ocean-Global Atmosphere (TOGA) programme) to understand and predict this ocean-atmosphere phenomenon. The result was the emergence of increasingly reliable seasonal climate forecasts for many parts of the world, especially for Latin America. These climate forecasts became even more reliable with the use of TOGA observations of the Upper Tropical Pacific from the mid-1990s, although they still lack the ability to correctly predict the onset of some El Niño and La Niña events (Kerr, 2003). Nowadays such forecasting systems are based on the use of coupled atmospheric-ocean models and have lead times of 3 months to more than 1 year. Such climate forecasts have given rise to a number of applications and have been in use in a number of sectors: starting in the late 1980s for fisheries in the Eastern Pacific and crops in Peru (Lagos, 2001), subsistence agriculture in north-east Brazil (Orlove et al., 1999), prevention of vegetation fires in tropical South America (Nepstad et al., 2004; http://www.cptec.inpe.br/), streamflow prediction for hydropower in the Uruguay river (Tucci et al., 2003; Collischonn et al., 2005), fisheries in the south-western Atlantic (Severov et al., 2004), dengue epidemics in Brazil (IRI, 2002), malaria control (Ruiz et al., 2006) and hydropower generation in Colombia (Poveda et al., 2003).
Agriculture is a key sector for the potential use of ENSO-based climate forecasts for planning production strategies as adaptive measures. Climate forecasts have been used in the northeast region of Brazil since the early 1990s. During 1992, based on the forecast of dry conditions in Ceara, it was recommended that crops better suited to drought conditions should be planted, and this led to reduced grain production losses (67% of the losses recorded for 1987, a year with similar rainfall but without climate forecasting). However, this tool has not yet been fully adopted because of some missed forecasts which eroded the credibility of the system (Orlove et al., 1999). Recently, in Tlaxcala (Mexico), ENSO forecasting was used to switch crops (from maize to oats) during the El Niño event (Conde and Eakin, 2003). This successful experience was based on strong stakeholder involvement (Conde and Lonsdale, 2005). Recent studies have quantified the potential economic value of ENSO-based climate forecasts, and concluded that increases in net return could reach 10% in potato and winter cereals in Chile (Meza et al., 2003); 6% in maize and 5% in soybean in Argentina (Magrin and Travasso, 2001); more than 20% in maize in Santa Julia, Mexico (Jones, 2001); and 30% in commercial agricultural areas of Mexico (Adams et al., 2003), when crop management practices are optimised (e.g., planting date, fertilisation, irrigation, crop varieties). Adjusting crop mix could produce potential benefits close to 9% in Argentina, depending on site, farmers' risk aversion, prices and the preceding crop (Messina, 1999). In the health sector, the application of climate forecasts is relatively new (see Section 22.214.171.124). Institutional support for early warning systems may help to facilitate early, environmentally-sound public health interventions. For instance, the Colombian Ministry of Health developed a contingency plan to control epidemics associated with the 1997/98 El Niño event (Poveda et al., 1999).
In some countries of Latin America, improvements in weather-forecasting techniques will provide better information for hydrometeorological watching and warning services. The installation of modern weather radar stations (with Doppler capacity) would improve the reliability of these warnings, but the network is still very sparse (WMO, 2007). Furthermore, the deficiencies in the surface and upper air networks adversely affect the reliability of weather outlooks and forecasts. Nevertheless, the exacerbation of weather and climate conditions and the problems arising from extreme events have led to planning and implementation actions to improve the observation, telecommunications and data processing systems of the World Weather Watch (WWW). Moreover,the participation of Latin American countries in the UN-IDSR would lead to the implementation of new (and further development of existing) monitoring and warning services in the region. Examples of networks that predict seasonal climate and climate extremes are the Regional Disaster Information Centre-Latin America and Caribbean (CRID), the International Centre for Research on El Niño Phenomenon (Ecuador), the Permanent Commission of South Pacific (CIIFEN; CPPS) and the Andean Committee for Disaster Prevention and Response (CAPRADE). Some networks set up to respond to and prevent impacts are, for example, the multi-stakeholder decision-making system developed in Peru (Warner, 2006), the National Development Plan and the National Risk Atlas implemented in Mexico (Quaas and Guevara, 2006) and the communication programme for indigenous populations, based on messages in the local language (Alcántara-Ayala, 2004).
Ecological corridors between protected areas have been planned for the maintenance of biodiversity in natural ecosystems. Some of these, such as the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, have been implemented, and these serve also as adaptation measures. Important projects are those for natural corridors in the Amazon and Atlantic forests (de Lima and Gascon, 1999; CBD, 2003) and the Villcabamba-Amboró biological corridor in Peru and Bolivia (Cruz Choque, 2003). Conservation efforts would be also devoted to implementing protection corridors containing mangroves, sea grass beds and coral reefs to boost fish abundance on reefs, benefit local fishing communities, and contribute to sustainable livelihoods (WWF, 2004). Other positive practices in the region are oriented towards maintaining and restoring native ecosystems and protecting and enhancing ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration in the Noel Kempff Mercado Climate Action Project in Bolivia (Brown et al., 2000). Conservation of biodiversity and maintenance of ecosystem structure and function are important for climate-change adaptation strategies, due to the protection of genetically diverse populations and species-rich ecosystems (World Bank, 2002a; CBD, 2003); an example is the initiative to implement adaptation measures in high mountain regions which has been developed in Colombia and other Andean countries (Vergara, 2005). A new option to promote mountainous forest conservation consists of compensating forest owners for the environmental services that those forests bring to society (UNEP, 2003a). The compensation is often financed by charging a small price supplement to water users for the water originating in forests. Such schemes are being implemented in various countries of Latin America and were tested in Costa Rica (Campos and Calvo, 2000). In Brazil, 'ProAmbiente' is an environmental credit programme of the government, paying for environmental services provided by smallholders that preserve the forest (MMA, 2004). Another initiative in Brazil is the ecological value-added tax, a fiscal instrument that remunerates municipalities that protect nature and generate environmental services, which was adopted initially by the states of Paraná and Minas Gerais, and more recently implemented in parts of the Amazon as well (May et al., 2004).
Some adaptive measures, such as changes in land use, sustainable management, insurance mechanisms, irrigation, adapted genotypes and changes in agronomic crop management, are used in the agricultural sector to cope with climatic variability. In addition, economic diversification has long been a strategy for managing risk (both climatic and market) and this has increased in recent years. While not a direct adaptation to climatic change, this diversification is lessening the dependence of farmers on agricultural income and enabling greater flexibility in managing environmental change (Eakin, 2005). Farmers located on the U.S.-Mexico border have been able to continue farming in the valley through changes in irrigation technology, crop diversification and market orientation, despite the crisis with the local aquifers caused by drought and over-exploitation (Vásquez-León et al., 2003). Sustainable land management based on familiar practices (contour barriers, green manures, crop rotation and stubble incorporation) allowed smallholders in Nicaragua to better cope with the impacts of Hurricane Mitch (Holt-Giménez, 2002). In Mexico, some small farmers are testing adaptation measures for current and future climate, implementing drip-irrigation systems, greenhouses and the use of compost (Conde et al., 2006). According to Wehbe et al. (2006), adjustments in planting dates and crop choice, construction of earth dams and the conversion of agriculture to livestock are increasingly popular adaptation measures in González (Mexico), while in southern Cordoba (Argentina), climate risk insurance, irrigation, adjusting planting dates, spatial distribution of risk through geographically separated plots, changing crops and maintaining a livestock herd were identified as common measures to cope with climatic hazards.
The lack of adequate adaptation strategies in Latin American countries to cope with the hazards and risks of floods and droughts is due to low gross national product (GNP), the increasing population settling in vulnerable areas (prone to flooding, landslides or drought) and the absence of the appropriate political, institutional and technological framework (Solanes and Jouravlev, 2006). Nevertheless, some communities and cities have organised themselves, becoming active in disaster prevention (Fay et al., 2003). Many poor inhabitants were encouraged to relocate from flood-prone areas to safer places. With the assistance of IRDB and IDFB loans, they built new homes, e.g., resettlements in the Paraná river basin of Argentina, after the 1992 flood (IRDB, 2000). In some cases, a change in environmental conditions affecting the typical economy of the Pampas has led to the introduction of new production activities through aquaculture, using natural regional fish species such as pejerrey (Odontesthes bonariensis) (La Nación, 2002). Another example, in this case related to the adaptive capacity of people to water stresses, is given by 'self organisation' programmes for improving water supply systems in very poor communities. The organisation Business Partners for Development Water and Sanitation Clusters has been working on four 'focus' plans in LA: Cartagena (Colombia), La Paz and El Alto (Bolivia), and some underprivileged districts of Gran Buenos Aires (Argentina) (The Water Page, 2001; Water 21, 2002). Rainwater cropping and storage systems are important features of sustainable development in the semi-arid tropics. In particular, there is a joint project developed in Brazil by the NGO Network ASA Project, called the P1MC- Project, for 1 million cisterns to be installed by civilian society in a decentralised manner. The plan is to supply drinking water to 1 million rural households in the perennial drought areas of the Brazilian semi-arid tropics (BSATs). During the first stage, 12,400 cisterns were built by ASA and the Ministry of Environment of Brazil and a further 21,000 were planned by the end of 2004 (Gnadlinger, 2003). In Argentina, national safe water programmes for local communities in arid regions of Santiago del Estero province installed ten rainwater catchments and storage systems between 2000 and 2002 (Basán Nickisch, 2002).
Several Latin American countries have developed planned and autonomous adaptation measures in response to current climate variability impacts on their coasts. Most of them (e.g., Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Venezuela) focus their adaptation on integrated coastal management (Hoggarth, et al., 2001; UNEP, 2003b, Natenzon et al., 2005a, b; Nagy et al., 2006b). The Caribbean Planning for Adaptation to Global Climate Change project is promoting actions to assess vulnerability (especially regarding rise in sea level), and plans for adaptation and development of appropriate capacities (CATHALAC, 2003). Since 2000, some countries have been improving their legal framework on matters related to establishing restrictions on air pollution and integrated marine and coastal regulation (e.g., Venezuela's integrated coastal zone plan since 2002). Due to the strong pressure of human settlement and economic activity, a comprehensive policy design is now included within the 'integrated coastal management' modelling in some countries, such as Venezuela (MARN, 2005) and Colombia (INVEMAR, 2005). In Belize and Guyana, the implementation of land-use planning and zoning strengthens the norms for infrastructure, the coastal-zone management plan, the adjustment of building codes and better disaster-mitigation strategies (including floodplain and other hazard mapping), which, along with climate-change considerations, are used in the day-to-day management of all sectors (CDERA, 2003; UNDP-GEF, 2003).
In Latin America, adaptation measures in the health sector should basically be considered as isolated initiatives. A project on adaptation to climate variability and change undertaken in Colombia is oriented towards formulating measures to reduce human health vulnerability and cope with impacts. The project includes the development of an integrated national pilot adaptation plan (INAP), for high mountain ecosystems, islands, and human health concerns related to the expansion of areas for vectors linked to malaria and dengue (Arjona, 2005). The project includes the development of a comprehensive and integrated dengue and malaria surveillance control system, aiming to reduce the infection rate from both diseases by 30% (Mantilla, 2005). Other isolated measures have been identified for several countries. For example, in Bolivia, adaptation measures regarding the health impacts of climate change include activities on vector control and medical surveillance. The aim is also to have community participation and health education, entomological research, strengthened sanitary services and the development of research centres dealing with tropical diseases. Government programmes would also focus on high-risk areas for malaria and leishmaniasis under climate change (Aparicio, 2000).
Was this article helpful?