Prior to 1940 there was a single expanse of tropical forest from southeastern Mexico to southern Panama.
In Costa Rica, slash and burn agriculture reduced forest cover from 75% in 1940 to a low of 21% in 1987. These practices resulted in severe erosion, extensive watershed pollution, extinctions and threats to a wide variety of animals. Similar forest degradation happened throughout Central America.
Today the region is characterized by environmentally damaged landscapes due to unsustainable land use. In jeopardy are essential environmental processes such as the hydrological cycle and the recharge of aquifers, carbon capture, soil conservation, biological diversity and the heritage of genetic resources on which future generations may depend.