Status and Trends of Biodiversity
Comprising more than half of Nicaragua’s 12 million hectares, the Atlantic slope contains outstanding biological diversity and habitats recognized nationally and globally. The area includes the largest remaining area of relatively pristine forest in all of Central America. Apart from its rich fauna and flora, the area also serves as a vital link in a chain of humid forests stretching from Mexico to Colombia, known as the Atlantic Biological Corridor. Nicaragua hosts a diverse number of species namely: 7,590 plant species with 39 threatened; 200 mammals with 6 threatened; 215 breeding birds with 5 threatened; 179 reptiles with 7 threatened; 61 amphibians and 241 fish with 1 threatened species. Nicaragua’s forests harbor populations of regionally endangered species, such as tapir, harpy eagle, and jaguar, whose survival depend on large areas of undisturbed forests. Nicaragua’s Atlantic slope has fragile soils and, therefore, little agricultural potential. Its economy has traditionally relied on limited exploitation of the region’s natural resources through small-scale forestry, artisanal mining, fisheries, and limited shifting agriculture. In recent years, the nation’s high rate of population growth combined with rural poverty in the more populated Pacific and central zones has increased. Forest clearing for subsistence farming is on the increase in the Atlantic slope, along with extensive livestock operations, commercial logging, mining, and fishing. Some estimate the rate of deforestation in the Atlantic at 2.1 percent of remaining forest cover per year.
Number and Extent of Protected Areas
The total protected land area is 2,810ha, which accounts for almost 21.8% of the total land surface area. 320ha are given over to Nature Reserves, 130 ha to marine and littoral zones and 2,182ha to the only Biosphere Reserve. As of 2003 there exists 88 protected areas.