Latin America and the Caribbean is the richest region of the planet in terms of its biological diversity. Within the dazzling array of the region’s ecosystems lie roughly a third of the world’s mammals and reptiles, two-fifths of the world’s birds, and almost half of the world’s amphibians.
This diversity is sustained by the abundance of its ecosystems and wealth in natural resources and is also demonstrated in the mosaic of cultures and people that live there. The environment of Latin America and the Caribbean also reflects the interaction between human activities and natural processes, both past and present.
The Latin America and the Caribbean Atlas of our Changing Environment shows environmental changes based on remotely sensed images acquired by different satellites over many years, or a few days in some cases, and through images, maps, tables, graphs and text, it presents a picture of where Latin America and the Caribbean has been, and where it is now.
This publication is organized in three chapters. Chapter 1 presents the main physical and geographical characteristics of the region that condition and favour the richness of its environment and natural resources; Chapter 2 describes the main environmental issues common to the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, and the third chapter provides concrete evidence of the environmental changes underway, as direct and indirect consequences of human actions.
The satellite images presented in Chapter 3 spotlight the conversion of forest to agricultural land, destruction and degradation of mangroves, urbanization, coastal development, mining activities, and melting glaciers. They also highlight increasing vulnerability in some areas of the region as a result of this accelerating environmental change. While the images collected also display the richness and diversity of environments, ecosystems, species and landscapes of the region, they show how this natural and human wealth is now hard pressed by the standards of the dominant economic development models that have generated growth but have produced significant social and environmental changes.
The visible changes presented are not the only reasons for concern; the speed of the changes is, in environmental terms, equally important. Observing the satellite images featured should give a sense of this urgency, showing the magnitude of the changes that can occur during a relatively short period of time, and alerting us to the responsibility that present generations have for themselves and their descendants.
In this manner, the information presented in the Latin America and the Caribbean Atlas of our Changing Environment, corroborated by the scientific sources used, functions a tool for identifying geographic and thematic hotspots, which is necessary to act on in order to oppose and manage the consequences of environmental changes to the ecosystems of the region and to human wellbeing.
Also available in Spanish -