27.1.1. The Central and South America Region
The Central America (CA) and South America (SA) region harbors unique ecosystems and has the highest biodiversity on the planet and a variety of eco-climatic gradients. Unfortunately, this natural wealth is threatened by advancing agricultural frontiers resulting from a rapidly growing agricultural and cattle production (Grau and Aide, 2008). The region experienced a steady economic growth, accelerated urbanization, and important demographic changes in the last decade; poverty and inequality are decreasing continuously, but at a low pace (ECLAC, 2011c). Adaptive capacity is improving in part thanks to poverty alleviation and development initiatives (Mc Gray et al., 2007).
The region has multiple stressors on natural and human systems derived in part from significant land use changes and exacerbated by climate variability/climate change. Climate variability at various time scales has been affecting social and natural systems, and extremes in particular have affected large regions. In Central and South America, 613 climatological and hydro-meteorological extreme events occurred in the period 2000-2013, resulting in 13,883 fatalities, 53.8 million people affected, and economic losses of US$52.3 billion (www.emdat.be). Land is facing in creasing pressure from competing uses such as cattle ranching, food production, and bioenergy.
The region is regarded as playing a key role in the future world economy because countries such as Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Panama, among others, are rapidly developing and becoming economically important in the world scenario. The region is bound to be exposed to the pressure related to increasing land use and industrialization. Therefore, it is expected to have to deal with increasing emission potentials. Thus, science-based decision making is thought to be an important tool to control innovation and development of the countries in the region.
Two other important contrasting features characterize the region: having the biggest tropical forest of the planet on the one side, and possessing the largest potential for agricultural expansion and development during the next decades on the other.