Science AMA Series: We’re Steve Sesnie (US Fish and Wildlife Service), Beth Tellman (Arizona State University) and David Wrathall (Oregon State University) from the Landscapes in Transformation – Central America Team: we study the impact of cocaine trafficking on tropical forests in Central America
Our analysis published this week in Environmental Research Letters (16 May 2017) estimates that cocaine trafficking is responsible for 30% of annual deforestation since the 2000 in the Central American countries of Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala.
Roughly 86 per cent of the cocaine trafficked globally moves through Central America on its way to North American consumers, leaving an estimated $6 billion US dollars in illegal profits in the region annually. Since the early 2000s, the impact of drug-trafficking and related money laundering has become key driver of land use changes, like cattle ranching, associated with forest loss in Central America. Most of the "narco-deforestation" we identified occurred in biodiversity hotspots, and around 30 to 60 per cent of the annual loss happened within official protected areas –national parks and UN World Heritage Sites– threatening conservation efforts to preserve biodiversity, carbon sequestration, ecological services, and rural and indigenous livelihoods.
Our paper describes the method we used to come to this conclusion. We'll be back at 12 pm ET (9 am PT) to answer your questions, Ask us anything!