04.05.16 | By Jessica Hanson

Central American biodiversity hotspots are increasingly at risk from drug trafficking, but not much is known about the full costs and risks to ecosystem services. In a new collaboration with Fundación Neotrópica, Earth Economics will contribute to a large-scale study that aims to support drug policy reform with solid scientific evidence of the unintended and under-recognized consequences of standard drug policies, including impacts on some of the world’s most biodiverse regions.  

Cocaine trafficking routes in Costa Rica.  Image Credit:  UNODC , 2012

Cocaine trafficking routes in Costa Rica.  Image Credit: UNODC, 2012

Drug trafficking routes and deforestation appear to go hand in hand in some areas of Central America.  A small but growing number of studies have identified influencing factors - roads and landing strips cut across forests, trafficking intensifies pressures, and forests are cut to create “narco-estates” as a front for trafficking activities.[i]  The issue is complicated, but little research documents how drug trafficking affects ecosystem services.

In this new collaboration, Earth Economics will provide Fundación Neotrópica, a partner on several projects since 2010, with ecosystem services valuation data for six protected areas. This data will be key information for an assessment of the impact of drug routes on Central America’s biodiversity hotspots.

Earth Economics holds the most comprehensive dataset of ecosystem service values for Central America, and this dataset will be invaluable in shedding light on how protected areas face risks from trafficking routes. The analysis will focus on biodiversity hotspots in six countries:

The Earth Economics-Fundación Neotrópica collaboration will support the project as a whole in documenting, mapping, and analyzing the environmental conflicts associated with drug trafficking and counter-narcotics activities. Nine universities and a handful of agencies and organizations are involved in the larger effort. With this project, the collaborators hope to inform the development of new, more effective drug policy that will take the additional costs to the war on drugs into account.


Cover Photo Credit: Caffe Vita via Flickr