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Tropical Forests

Tropical Forests: Regional Paths of Destruction and Regeneration in the Late Twentieth Century

Thomas K. Rudel
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Tropical Forests
    Book Description:

    In Tropical Forests, Rudel analyzes hundreds of local studies from the past twenty years to develop a much-needed, global perspective on deforestation. With separate chapters on individual regions, including South and Central America, the Caribbean, and Africa, Rudel's work offers an up-to-date assessment of the world's tropical forests. In the concluding chapter, Rudel considers the implications of these trends and describes policy directions for conserving biodiversity and promoting sustainable development in each region.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50690-8
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  7. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Fears about the imminent extinction of large numbers of plants and animals have prompted an outpouring of concern and analysis about tropical deforestation during the past two decades. Despite the emergence of a social movement devoted to reducing deforestation, and the publication of hundreds of studies that analyzed its causes, the destruction of tropical rain forests did not appear to slow down much, if at all, during the 1990s (Stokstad, 2001).¹ Brazil provides a prominent case in point. After reaching high rates in the late 1980s, deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon declined during the early 1990s, only to increase...

  8. 2 Theory and Method in Studying Regional Deforestation Processes
    (pp. 11-32)

    This chapter lays the conceptual groundwork for the subsequent empirical analyses of regional deforestation processes. It defines terms and summarizes the literature on tropical deforestation over the past 20 years. The summary begins with a description of variable-oriented explanations for deforestation, providing brief characterizations of economic, political, and demographic arguments for its causes.

    Then I discuss recent attempts to move beyond variable-oriented approaches through the development of agent- and event-oriented approaches that stress the ways in which multiple variables interact to produce forest destruction or regeneration in places (Geist and Lambin, 2001). A description of the event-oriented historical approach used...

  9. 3 Central America and the Caribbean: Island and Isthmus Deforestation
    (pp. 33-50)

    Forests once stretched eastward from high peaks in the interior to beaches along the windward shores of the Caribbean Ocean. The prevailing trade winds still bring rain from humid ocean air masses to the coasts and mountains, but the rains nurture much smaller forests than they did 500 years ago. Forests persist in mountain redoubts on Caribbean islands, and a strip of fragmented, moist forest runs north, from Panama to Mexico, along the Caribbean coast of the Central American isthmus. Just to the west, paralleling the moist forests, patches of dry forests and upland pine forests extend from Costa Rica...

  10. 4 The Amazon Basin: The Breakdown of Passive Protection
    (pp. 51-74)

    An immense tropical rain forest covers the Amazon and Orinoco River basins (figure 4.1). Extending from the Andes to the Atlantic Ocean, the Amazon–Orinoco forest contains a little less than half of all of the forested land in the tropics.¹ Despite the forest’s large size, humans have made sustained efforts to exploit the lands beneath it. Amerindians established large settlements and cut extensive fields out of the floodplain forests along the main stem of the Amazon river during the pre-Columbian era (Denevan, 1992). Amerindians also established settlements and cultivated manioc away from the river in areas such as the...

  11. 5 West Africa: From Cocoa Groves in Forests to Food Crops in Scrub Growth
    (pp. 75-89)

    The tropical forests of West Africa grow where humid ocean air masses bring rains to coastal portions of the region. The forests begin at the water’s edge with mangroves south of Cape Verde and extend, with interruptions, along the coast in a narrow strip southward and eastward until it merges with the large block of forest in central Africa (figure 5.1). One interruption occurs in Benin, in the Dahomey gap, where a mixed landscape of gallery forests and savannas reaches the sea. Despite their limited extent, the tropical forests of West Africa contain high levels of biodiversity. The Tai forest...

  12. 6 Central Africa: Passive Protections for Rain Forests
    (pp. 90-104)

    The Father, described by Henry Morton Stanley after his descent of the Congo, is only one of 33 cataracts, spread out over 230 miles just before the Congo meets the sea. Explorers christened the last of these rapids “the Cauldron of Hell.” The river that rushes through the Cauldron of Hell drains the eastern two thirds of the central African rain forest. For the past 500 years, outsiders have tried to exploit this forest, but the rapids have wrecked their schemes. The cataracts make it impossible to move goods in and out of the basin by boat, so they have...

  13. 7 East Africa: Sustainable Spots Surrounded by Degrading Expanses
    (pp. 105-121)

    The dry forest described by Livingston covers most of East Africa.¹ Called miombo woodlands, it stretches for 1,500 hundred miles, east and north from eastern Angola across Zimbabwe, Zambia, the southeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Malawi, to northern Tanzania. It is the largest deciduous, dry forest in the world. It contains less biomass than the closed forests of the humid tropics. Two genera of trees, Brachystegia and Julbernardia, dominate the miombo woodlands. They rise to between 12 and 15 m in height, sprout green leaves during the wet season, and shed them during the dry season. The...

  14. 8 South Asia: A Turning Point for Forests?
    (pp. 122-138)

    Unlike other tropical regions, south Asia has long had densely settled rural areas such as this one described by a nineteenth-century British traveler. People sustained themselves first through shifting cultivation and then through permanent cultivation in the more densely populated areas. Over time, they destroyed most of the forests in lowland regions. Long before the British established colonial rule in India, villages had established local traditions of self-governance (Richards, 1987:301–302; Guha, 2000:21). Village leaders revived these traditions during the last two decades of the twentieth century when, with encouragement from federal forestry officials, they reestablished local control over some...

  15. 9 Southeast Asia: Deforesting the Lowlands, Afforesting the Highlands
    (pp. 139-154)

    Wallace’s eyes did not deceive him. The tropical rain forests of Southeast Asia contain the world’s most diverse assemblage of vascular plants as well as its most economically valuable hardwoods. Because these forests stretch across an extensive archipelago from the Solomon Islands in the Pacific to the upland regions of continental Southeast Asia, they are more fragmented than the other large blocks of rain forest, in the Amazon and central Africa. The insular setting of the rain forests also ensures that, until recently, a fairly large proportion of them existed near coasts. The coastal locations of the forests did not...

  16. 10 Through a Regional Lens: Conservation Policies in Large and Small Forests
    (pp. 155-172)

    The din arises not from an undisturbed jungle but from insects and frogs living amid the plants in a nineteenth-century urban neighborhood in Belem, a city at the mouth of the Amazon River. Bates’s observation suggests that impressive amounts of biodiversity can live in close proximity to large numbers of humans. It makes more plausible the essential contention of sustainable development efforts—that humans can maintain the integrity of tropical nature at the same time that they exploit it for their own purposes. The salience of the frogs, currently one of the most endangered genera, adds to the poignancy of...

  17. Appendix: Case Studies and Accompanying QCAs for Each Region
    (pp. 173-186)
  18. Notes
    (pp. 187-194)
  19. References
    (pp. 195-220)
  20. Index
    (pp. 221-232)