Washington, Feb 10 (ANI): Scientists have found that cultivating coca bushes, the source of cocaine, is speeding up destruction of rainforests in Colombia and threatening the region's "hotspots" of plant and animal diversity.
The findings, they say, underscore the need for establishing larger protected areas to help preserve biodiversity.
Dr. Liliana M. Davalos, professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at Stony Brook, and her colleagues note that the pace of deforestation in Colombia has accelerated over the past 20 years, even as population growth has slowed and the economy has shifted from agriculture to other revenue sources. This increase in deforestation overlaps with an increase in the cultivation of coca for cocaine production, and the country accounted for 75 per cent of the world's coca in 2000.
Earlier reports found that direct deforestation from coca was surprisingly small, with as little as 150 km2 of forests replaced by coca each year by 2005. Since rainforests contain about 10 percent of the world's plant and animal species-some of which become the basis of new medicines-deforestation represents a serious threat to global biodiversity. With studies suggesting that coca cultivation contributes indirectly to deforestation, the scientists set out to further document this impact.
This is the first time the indirect impact on deforestation from cultivation destined for the global cocaine market has been quantified across South America's biodiversity hotpots.
The Stony Brook University scientists also showed that designating protected areas, regions that are set-aside for special protection for environmental reasons, reduced forest destruction in coca-growing areas. Establishing larger protected areas in the region could help control deforestation and preserve biodiversity, the report suggests.
The study appears in ACS' journal Environmental Science and Technology. (ANI)