New movements are tackling common environmental issues in Latin America – they have a lot to do.4
Between 1972 and 2000 the urban population rose from 58.9% to 75.3% of the total.
Air pollution affects more than 80 million people in the region and is the main cause of 2.3 million annual cases of respiratory disease in children.
Photo: Julio Etchart
The region has more than 30% of the world’s total renewable water resources. But in 1995 27% of the population had no easy access to it.
The region has nearly a quarter of the world’s forest area containing 160 million cubic metres of wood – a third of the world total.
The rate of deforestation is the highest in the world; of the 418 million hectares of natural forest lost during the past 30 years, 190 million were in Latin America.
Latin America and the Caribbean:
change in forest area 1990-2000 (million hectares)
Total land area 2,017.8
Total land forested in 1990 1,011.0
Loss of forested land 1990-2000 46.7 million hectares
Latin America has 7 of the world’s 25 biologically richest ecoregions, containing between them 46,000 plant, 1,597 amphibian, 1,208 reptile, 1,267 bird and 575 mammal species.
As a result of habitat loss, 31 of the 178 ecoregions are in a critical state, 51 are endangered and 55 are vulnerable.
Soil erosion affects 14.3% of the land in South America and 26% in Central America. By 1980, nutrient depletion had affected 68.2 million hectares. Between 1972 and 1997 the use of chemical fertilizers increased from 3.7 to 10.9 million tonnes.