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El Salvador - Country Profile

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Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

El Salvador has the distinction of being the smallest and only country without a coastline on the Caribbean Sea in Central America. Its territory covers 21,041 km2, 27% of which is presently forested (13% consists of natural forest ecosystems and almost 9% of shade-grown coffee plantations). Land use changes remain a serious problem in the country. Between 2000 and 2010, the country lost 6.6% of its forest cover due to various causes, including agricultural expansion associated with subsistence farming in basic grains, commercial agriculture in sugarcane, among other crops, and an increase in pasture land for livestock production. During this same period, it is estimated that 2.3% of natural forest ecosystems were lost. The deciduous and semi-deciduous broadleaf forest ecosystem has been significantly affected by anthropogenic activities associated with agricultural and livestock expansion, urbanization and subdivision projects. Gallery forests are also affected by ongoing deforestation and degradation, mainly resulting from agricultural and livestock activities. Activities related to the construction of hotel infrastructure, housing and small hydropower projects have greatly affected mangroves and transitional zones along the coast. Pine and pine-oak forests and mangroves are the most threatened by extractive activities.

Other changes relate to water behaviour and flow. In the dry season in 2013, anomalies in the coastal zone were evidenced as were severe deficits in the north, in the Tamulasco and Torola Rivers, where water flow was up to 83% lower than historically recorded. Land use changes, deforestation and climate variability are among the causes of these changes. Also, in the Balsamo Cordillera-central coastal plain region, the profile of San Diego Beach located on the San Diego estuary (the region’s most important estuary) reveals that the beach is out of equilibrium today due to the successive filling of the estuary. This has had a significant negative impact on waterfront property, particularly in San Diego Beach, La Libertad, Amatecampo and El Pimental. The Jaltepeque estuary has also been considerably modified due to saline intrusion into aquifers, lack of sewage and drainage networks and tourism establishments, among other factors.

With the steady rise in the price of sugar, the expansion of sugarcane production has accelerated, becoming a major force for land use change in El Salvador. Moreover, successive oil price hikes and increased demand for alternative energy sources have increased interest in improving this crop and its use in ethanol production. Much of the surface used for sugarcane production nowadays was formerly used for cultivating cotton and pasture land. According to the National Sugar Association, the 2013-2014 harvest comprised 3.4% of the country’s territory. Activities are however expanding towards environmentally fragile areas near forests, including mangroves and transitional zones, in the coastal region, altering existing habitats. Furthermore, it is feared that certain practices and technologies may adversely affect human health and ecosystems. As a result, sugarcane cultivation has been identified as one of the main threats to Salvadoran ecosystems, with major impacts on biodiversity, soil quality and water resources.

An economic valuation carried out on mangroves in La Union Bay in the mid-1990s, and partially updated in 2011, concluded that the mangrove ecosystem has the potential to provide up to $ 18.52 US dollars per hectare per year up to 2050. These values are based on industrial fishing in shrimp, artisanal fishing in a variety of coastal and estuarine fish and mollusks, and on the assumption that activities will be carried out in accordance with the principles of sustainable management.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Direct threats to Salvadoran biodiversity include: habitat reduction and fragmentation caused by land use changes; over-exploitation of biological resources; contamination of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems; biological invasions; and climate change.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

El Salvador’s first Biodiversity Strategy (2000) prioritized 5 overall activities: biodiversity inventorying; in situ and ex situ conservation; training and capacity development; technological research and development, and effective operationalization of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) through restructuring existing institutions and redefining responsibilities; and centralizing scattered units within MARN. The second phase focused on generating, systematizing and managing biodiversity knowledge and information; inventorying and monitoring; civil society participation in the management of natural protected areas; and access to genetic and biochemical resources. The third phase dealt with consolidating and managing the national system of natural protected areas and biological corridors with the participation of all sectors of society.

El Salvador’s new Biodiversity Strategy (2013) constitutes one of four national strategies developed for implementing the National Policy for the Environment (2012). In contrast to the earlier Strategy, it addresses aspects related to climate change adaptation as well as biodiversity mainstreaming in sectors and the economy. The other three strategies deal respectively with climate change, water resources and environmental sanitation. The focus of the new Strategy is on massive restoration and conservation undertakings, including in regard to the country’s ecosystems, with particular emphasis placed on soil and land uses. It contains 3 main goals and identifies respective priority areas: 1) biodiversity mainstreaming in the economy (agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture, tourism); 2) restoration and conservation, including critical ecosystems (mangroves and beach ecosystems, rivers and wetlands, gallery forests and other forest ecosystems); 3) Biodiversity for the People (rescue of traditional conservation practices for genetic resources, rights of use of biological resources, local economic options). To enable implementation, five critical themes are highlighted (awareness-raising, research, education and training, technology, financing), as is action required at the institutional level. The accompanying Action Plan is currently in development.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The fifth national report (2014) summarizes progress towards the global targets to date as follows:

A high level of progress has been achieved with respect to Target 17 (NBSAPs). A medium/high level has been achieved with respect to Target 11 (Protected Areas), Target 13 (Genetic Diversity) and Target 15 (Ecosystems restored and resilience enhanced).

A medium level of progress has been achieved with respect to Target 1 (Awareness increased), Target 2 (Biodiversity values integrated), Target 4 (Sustainable consumption and production), Target 6 (Sustainable management of marine living resources), Target 9 (Invasive alien species), Target 10 (Pressures on vulnerable ecosystems reduced), Target 12 (Extinction prevented), Target 14 (Ecosystems and essential services safeguarded), Target 16 (Nagoya Protocol), Target 18 (Traditional Knowledge), and Target 19 (Knowledge improved, shared and applied).

A low/medium level of progress has been achieved with respect to Target 5 (Habitat loss halved or reduced).

A low level of progress has been achieved with respect to Target 3 (Incentives reformed), Target 7 (Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry) and Target 8 (Pollution reduced).

Regarding Aichi Biodiversity Target 20, a Strategy on Resource Mobilization has been developed to guide the process of securing necessary funding and resources for NBSAP implementation. This strategy also promotes synergies and coordinated agendas between biodiversity and climate change initiatives.

El Salvador’s “new vision for biodiversity” has led to achievements in many areas through the incorporation of biodiversity and ecosystem services in instruments such as strategic environmental assessment (SEA) and environmental impact assessment (EIA). This new vision also promotes the adoption of new models for environmental planning that integrate biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services into broader landscapes and spaces, with a view towards achieving local sustainable development, as is case with biosphere reserves.

The Montecristo National Park in the country’s mountainous northwest region is a natural protected area selected for protection due to the many ecosystem services and unique biodiversity provided by the area. Together with Guatemala and Honduras, it forms a core part of the Montecristo Trinational Protected Area. The basin of the San José River that runs through Montecristo National Park is of special importance because of the water it supplies to the city of Metapán.

The Cinquera forest in the Department of Cabañas is an area composed mainly of secondary forest (deciduous, semi-deciduous, evergreen) undergoing a process of natural regeneration. This land had formerly been used for agricultural and livestock production, however was abandoned during the armed conflict which occurred in the country between 1980 and 1992. After the conflict, the population returned to rebuild the village and preserve the forest which provides significant ecosystem goods and services linked to tourism, recreation, carbon sequestration, water and firewood supply, among other benefits. Today, an area of approximately 3,000 acres is owned by about 2,000 people and maintained by a community-led initiative known as the Municipal Association for Reconstruction and Development. Together with other local authorities, the Association promotes efforts to address threats and the adoption of sustainable farming practices, with a focus on ecosystem recovery.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Article 26 of the Law on Protected Natural Areas focuses on integrated management through consideration of geographical proximity and ecological interdependence between protected areas and their management by a single administration, in order to contribute to the establishment of the National Biological Corridor and promote socioeconomic development. In developing the National Plan for Territorial Planning and Development, 15 conservation units equivalent to 51% of the country’s territory were identified based on various criteria, such as a high level of biodiversity, prioritized natural spaces, ecological interdependence and the ability to provide key ecosystem services. The identification of these conservation units has contributed to the establishment and expansion of protected areas and the National Biological Corridor. Today, 25% of the country is under some form of sustainable management and national or international recognition.

Specialized units for Biological Resource Management (which includes management of wildlife and genetic resources) and for the Management of Natural Protected Areas and Biological Corridors have been established within MARN.

Regarding Aichi Biodiversity Target 20, a Strategy on Resource Mobilization has been developed to guide the process of securing necessary funding and resources for NBSAP implementation. This strategy also promotes synergies and coordinated agendas between biodiversity and climate change initiatives.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Following the development of a Manual on Biodiversity Inventorying and Monitoring, a National Strategy for Biodiversity Inventorying and Monitoring was developed through a broad intersectoral consultation process. In addition, the creation of a National System on Biodiversity Information, as a part of MARN’s Environmental Information System, has been proposed.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme