Tropical Forests: A Resource in Jeopardy
Tropical forests are one of the earth's most valuable natural resources. Throughout history, they have been essential sources of food, fuel, shelter, medicines, and many other products. Developed and developing countries differ sharply in the condition of their forests and the status of forest conservation and management. The importance of forests and trees extends far beyond their value as a source of fuelwood. They provide wood for building poles, furniture, roof timbers, fencing, household implements, and many other uses. Deforestation is having serious impacts on food production. Upland watersheds in Central America are undergoing extensive deforestation, mainly for cattle raising and agriculture. Industrial forest products such as sawnwood, plywood, and paper are important throughout the world. Governments need to establish policies that encourage local participation in rural tree planting programs and natural forest management. Special attention needs to be paid to the role of nongovernmental organizations in managing and maintaining natural tropical forests and in tree planting.