C e n t r a l   A m e r i c a

The relatively small tropical forests of Central America have a relatively high diversity of species, since they sit on the land bridge between North and South America. Tiny Panama is home to more than 700 species of birds, a larger number than found in all of North America. Costa Rica has made ecotourism a major source of revenue, and has established a national network of parks. See Student Correspondents in Costa Rica for Field Journals and images from the students of Summit High School.

In 1950, about 60% of Central America was covered with forest, but by 1980 this had fallen to 41%, and El Salvador, the smallest nation in the region, has almost no forest remaining. This deforestation—though relatively small in total numbers of acres—is in fact proportionately even more significant than changes in land use in Brazil or Indonesia, which are much larger both in national territory and in extent of forest remaining.

Many biologists think that the decline in bird species formerly common in North America, such as the wood thrush or Tennessee warbler, can mainly be ascribed to the loss of these Central American forests, since three of the four major flyways from North to South America pass through Panama.

Maps Data Supplied by ESRI