The forest-hydrology-poverty nexus in Central America: an heuristic analysis

Andrew Nelson, Kenneth M. Chomitz

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A "forest-hydrology-poverty nexus" hypothesis asserts that deforestation in poor upland areas simultaneously threatens biodiversity and increases the incidence of flooding, sedimentation, and other damaging hydrological processes. The authors use rough heuristics to assess the applicability of this hypothesis to Central America. They do so by using a simple rule of thumb to identify watersheds at greater risk of hydrologically significant land use change: these are watersheds where there is a relatively large interface between agriculture and forest, and where this interface is on a steep slope. The authors compare the location of these watersheds with spatial maps of poverty and forests (for Guatemala and Honduras) and with maps of population and forests (for Central America at large). The analysis is performed for watersheds defined at different scales. The authors find plausible evidence for a forest-biodiversity-poverty connection in Guatemala, and to a lesser extent in Honduras. In the rest of Central America, there are relatively few areas where forest meets agriculture on steep slopes-either the forest or the slopes are lacking. And the ratio of these forest/agriculture/hillside interfaces to watershed area declines markedly as larger-scale watersheds are considered. This directs attention to relatively small watersheds for further investigation of the "nexus."
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationWashington, DC
PublisherWorld Bank
Number of pages39
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameWorld Bank Policy Research Working Paper
PublisherWorld Bank


  • ADLIB-BOOK-475


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