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Much of Central America’s timberland, however, has been cleared by slash-and-burn cultivators, who move on when the soil is exhausted.This extensive form of cultivation has become less sustainable as fallow periods are shortened in response to rising demographic pressures and as the forest soils lose their ability to recuperate.Many of the remaining Indians live in adjoining Honduras and El Salvador; elsewhere, only in Belize are Indians a significant element (about one-tenth) of the population.From the mid-19th century Central America’s economy was based on the production of coffee and bananas for export.

Throughout the 1980s and into the ’90s, armed conflict, civil wars, high inflation, and poor social conditions contributed to a deteriorating economy, and most countries had to seek foreign aid from the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund.

Elevation steadily increases west of the Caribbean lowlands, until, toward the Pacific Coast, plateau highlands culminate in mountain ridges and some 40 volcanic cones, some of which attain elevations of more than 12,000 feet (3,700 metres).

Some of Central America’s volcanoes erupt violently from time to time, and earthquakes frequently occur in the region.

The Central American forests are relatively sparsely populated with mammals, generously populated with reptiles, and extremely rich in birds and insects.

Monkeys, tree frogs, iguanas, and snakes are abundant.

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