The vast extension covered by tropical and temperate forests in Mexico provides, in addition to a wide range of environmental services, a potentially large amount of forest resources. Tropical and temperate forests protect the soil against erosion, contribute to maintain its fertility and the amount and quality of water draining in the watershed, preserve biodiversity and foster regional and global climate stability (Conabio, 1998; Matthews et al., 2000; SCBD, 2001a; Groombridge and Jenkins, 2002; Stephano et al, 2003; McCauley, 2006). Forested areas also serve as spaces for recreation and tourism, education and scientific discovery, in addition to the enormous cultural and spiritual value they hold for many peoples in the world. However, their most tangible contribution to society is the large variety of material goods supplied by them: on the one hand, timber products (which mostly include timber for boards, planks, beams and packaging materials), paper, veneer, plywood and fuelwood for energy generation (Semarnat, 2009; FAO, 2006). On the other hand, there are non-timber products, a wide range of materials including humus soil, resins, fibers, waxes, fruits and live plants, among many others (SCBD, 2001b; Semarnat, 2009).
Global timber production in 2005 was dominated by the United States (18% of the total volume), followed by Brazil (10%), Canada (7%), the Russian Federation (6%) and China (4%), together accounting for 45.5% of that year’s total production (FAO, 2006). Meanwhile, Mexico contributed only 0.2% to the world’s total production (Semarnat, 2009).
Unfortunately, forest wealth is being seriously threatened in many countries, including Mexico. Between 1990 and 2000, some 9 million hectares of forest cover were lost every year worldwide, at an annual rate of 0.2% (FAO, 2005), which led to the irreversible loss of many valuable environmental services and forest resources of critical socioeconomic importance. Although the net loss rate decreased during the period 2000-2005, it was still high, at an estimated 7.3 million hectares per year (0.18% per year) (FAO, 2007a).
In addition, not only the extent of forest cover has been reduced, but also its quality: it is estimated that only 40% of the global forest cover has endured little disturbance (Bryant et al., 1997) mostly in the boreal forests of Canada, Alaska and Russia, the tropical forests of Guyana and the Amazon basin, and small areas in Central Africa and Papua New Guinea (Mathews et al., 2000). Factors that govern the loss of forest cover and, consequently, of forest resources, are complex. However, the conversion of forest land to other uses (agriculture, livestock or urban); the legal or illegal extraction of timber and non-timber forest products; forest fires; pests and diseases are recognized as the major drivers (Matthews et al., 2000; SCBD, 2001a; UNEP 2003, 2004).
The recognition of these issues has given rise to a growing global concern about the impact of human activities on forest resources; consequently, strategies for the recovery and sustainable use of forest resources have been developed. The several strategies that have been implemented in Mexico can be grouped into three lines: those aimed at reducing the pressures on forest resources (e. g., the Program for Commercial Forest Plantations, Prodeplan) (Conafor, 2006a); those aimed at recovering forest cover (e. g., the Program for the Conservation and Restoration of Forest Ecosystems, Procoref) (Conafor, 2006b) and, finally, strategies for sustainable forest management (e.g., the Program for Forest Development, Prodefor; and the Project for the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Forest Resources, Procymaf, (Conafor, 2006c, 2008). Among the latter, efforts to improve forest health through diagnosis and treatment of areas affected by forest pests and diseases, and the inspection and surveillance activities conducted by the Federal Environmental Attorney’s Office (Profepa) to enforce forestry regulations compliance (Profepa, 2009) also stand out. Other programs, such as the Payment for Hydrological Environmental Services Program (PSAH, for its Spanish acronym), and the program to develop an environmental services market for carbon sequestration and biodiversity derivatives and to encourage the establishment and improvement of agroforestry systems (PSA-CABSA for its acronym in Spanish) (Conafor, 2006d), although not directly aimed at extracting and making use of forest resources, do promote the protection of forested areas and the environmental services they provide. Indicators for these activities are presented in the Water and Biodiversity chapters.
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Conabio. La diversidad biológica de México: Estudio de País, 1998. México. 1998.
Conafor. Programa para el desarrollo de plantaciones forestales comerciales (PRODEPLAN) 2001-2006. Libro blanco. Informe de rendición de cuentas 2000-2006. México. 2006a.
Conafor. Programa de conservación y restauración de ecosistemas forestales (PROCOREF). Libro blanco. Informe de rendición de cuentas 2000-2006. México. 2006b.
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Conafor. Proyecto de servicios ambientales del bosque (PSAH y PSA-CABSA). Programa de manejo sustentable de ecosistemas de montaña. Libro blanco. Informe de rendición de cuentas 2000-2006. México. 2006d.
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Groombridge, B. y M. D. Jenkins. World atlas of biodiversity. UNEP WCMC. University of California Press. USA. 2002.
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http://www.wri.org/publication/pilot-analysis-global-ecosystems-forest-ecosystems Fecha de consulta: 30-10-2012.
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SCBD. Sustainable management of non-timber forest resources. Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. CBD Technical Series no. 6. Canada. 2001b.
Semarnat. Informe de la situación del medio ambiente en México. Compendio de estadísticas ambientales 2008. México. 2009.
Stephano P. J. Bishop y N. Landel-Mills (Eds.). La venta de servicios ambientales forestales. Mecanismos basados en el Mercado para la conservación y el desarrollo. INE-Semarnat. México. 2003.