Although the rate of deforestation in the tropics is debated, the overall trend is clear. The world is experiencing a significant loss of its tropical forests. The data in Table 4.1 (total forested area divided by area deforested annually) suggest that if the rate does not slow, tropical forests will have disappeared within a time frame of a century. The law of supply and demand predicts that as tropical timber becomes scarcer, its use will become more efficient, and, as a result, the rate of forest depletion may slow. The problem is that, by the time this occurs, the ability of tropical forests to reproduce may be seriously impaired.

As tropical forests disappear, the productive potential of the land is affected, as are local and national economies. For some groups, the adjustments will improve their economic income, while for others their situation will deteriorate. For everyone, there will be a loss of an international treasure of immeasurable value.

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