Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 80, Issue 1, pp 65–95 | Cite as

An Ecosystem Report on the Panama Canal: Monitoring the Status of the Forest Communities and the Watershed

  • Roberto Ibáñez
  • Richard Condit
  • George Angehr
  • Salomón Aguilar
  • Tomas GarcÍa
  • Raul MartÍnez
  • Amelia Sanjur
  • Robert Stallard
  • S. Joseph Wright
  • A. Stanley Rand
  • Stanley Heckadon
Article

Abstract

In 1996, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the Republic of Panama's Environmental Authority, with support fromthe United States Agency for International Development, undertook a comprehensive program to monitor the ecosystem of the Panama Canal watershed. The goals were to establish baselineindicators for the integrity of forest communities and rivers. Based on satellite image classification and ground surveys, the2790 km2 watershed had 1570 km2 of forest in 1997, 1080 km2 of which was in national parks and nature monuments. Most of the 490 km2 of forest not currently in protected areas lies along the west bank of the Canal, and its managementstatus after the year 2000 turnover of the Canal from the U.S. to Panama remains uncertain. In forest plots designed to monitorforest diversity and change, a total of 963 woody plant specieswere identified and mapped. We estimate there are a total of 850–1000 woody species in forests of the Canal corridor. Forestsof the wetter upper reaches of the watershed are distinct in species composition from the Canal corridor, and have considerably higher diversity and many unknown species. Theseremote areas are extensively forested, poorly explored, and harbor an estimated 1400–2200 woody species. Vertebrate monitoring programs were also initiated, focusing on species threatened by hunting and forest fragmentation. Large mammals are heavily hunted in most forests of Canal corridor, and therewas clear evidence that mammal density is greatly reduced in hunted areas and that this affects seed predation and dispersal. The human population of the watershed was 113 000 in 1990, and grew by nearly 4% per year from 1980 to 1990. Much of this growth was in a small region of the watershed on the outskirts of Panama City, but even rural areas, including villages near and within national parks, grew by 2% per year. There is no sewage treatment in the watershed, and many towns have no trashcollection, thus streams near large towns are heavily polluted. Analyses of sediment loads in rivers throughout the watershed did not indicate that erosion has been increasing as a result ofdeforestation, rather, erosion seems to be driven largely by total rainfall and heavy rainfall events that cause landslides.Still, models suggest that large-scale deforestation would increase landslide frequency, and failure to detect increases inerosion could be due to the gradual deforestation rate and the short time period over which data are available. A study of runoff showed deforestation increased the amount of water fromrainfall that passed directly into streams. As a result, dry season flow was reduced in a deforested catchment relative to aforested one. Currently, the Panama Canal watershed has extensive forest areasand streams relatively unaffected by humans. But impacts of hunting and pollution near towns are clear, and the burgeoningpopulation will exacerbate these impacts in the next few decades.Changes in policies regarding forest protection and pollution control are necessary.

environmental assessment forest communities human population hydrological aspects Panama Canal vertebrate populations watershed monitoring 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Aguilar, S. and Condit, R.: 2001, 'Use of native tree species by an Hispanic community in Panama', Econ. Bot. 55, 223–235.Google Scholar
  2. Angermeier, P. L. and Karr, J. R.: 1994, 'Biological integrity versus biological diversity as policy directives', BioScience 44, 690–697.Google Scholar
  3. Ashton, P. S.: 1998, 'A Global Network of Plots for Understanding Tree Species Diversity in Tropical Forests', in F. Dallmeier and J. A. Comiskey, (eds), Forest Biodiversity Research, Monitoring and Modeling: Conceptual Background and Old World Case Studies, UNESCO and Parthenon Publishing Group, Paris and New York, pp. 47–62Google Scholar
  4. Barone, J. A.: 1998, 'Host-specificity of folivorous insects in a moist tropical forest', J. Animal Ecol. 67, 400–409.Google Scholar
  5. Barthlott, W., Lauer, W. and Placke, A.: 1996, 'Global distribution of species diversity in vascular plants: Towards a world map of phytodiversity', Erdkunde 50, 317–327.Google Scholar
  6. Berger, L., Speare, R., Daszak, P., Green, D. E., Cunningham, A. A., Googgin, C. L., Slocombe, R., Ragan, M. A., Hyatt, A. D., McDonald, K. R., Hines, H. B., Lips, K. R., Marantelli, G. and Parkes, H.: 1998, 'Chytridiomycosis causes amphibian mortality associated with population declines in the rain forests of Australia and Central America', Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 95, 9031–9036.Google Scholar
  7. Blaustein, A. R. and Wake, D. B.: 1990, 'Declining amphibian populations: a global phenomenon?', Trends Eco. Evol. 5, 203–204.Google Scholar
  8. Bruijnzeel, L. A.: 1990, Hydrology of Moist Tropical Forests and Effects of Conversion: A State of Knowledge Review, UNESCO International Hydrological Programme, Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  9. Clark, J. S., Silman, M., Kern, R., Macklin, E. and HilleRisLambers, J.: 1999, 'Seed dispersal near and far: Patterns across temperate and tropical forests', Ecol. 80, 1475–1494.Google Scholar
  10. Condit, R.: 1995, 'Research in large, long-term tropical forest plots', Trends Ecol. Evol. 10, 18–22.Google Scholar
  11. Condit, R.: 1998, Tropical Forest Census Plots, Springer-Verlag and R. G. Landes Company, Berlin, Germany, and Georgetown, Texas.Google Scholar
  12. Condit, R., Foster, R. B., Hubbell, S. P., Sukumar, R., Leigh, E. G., Manokaran, N. and Loo de Lao, S.: 1998, 'Assessing Forest Diversity on Small Plots: Calibration Using Species-individual Curves from 50 Ha Plots', in F. Dallmeier and J. A. Comiskey (eds), Forest Biodiversity Diversity Research, Monitoring, and Modeling, UNESCO, The Parthenon Publishing Group, Paris, New York. pp. 247–268Google Scholar
  13. Condit, R., Hubbell, S. P., LaFrankie, J. V., Sukumar, R., Manokaran, N., Foster, R. B. and Ashton, P. S.: 1996, 'Species-area and species-individual relationships for tropical trees: A comparison of three 50 ha plots', J. Ecol. 84, 549–562.Google Scholar
  14. Condit, R., Pitman, N., Leigh, E. G., Chave, J., Terborgh, J., Foster, R. B., NÚñez, P. V., Aguilar, S., Valencia, R., Villa, G., Muller-Landau, H., Losos, E., and Hubbell, S. P.: 'Beta-diversity in tropical forest trees', Science 295, 666–669.Google Scholar
  15. Condit, R., Robinson, W. D., Ibáñez, R., Aguilar, S., Sanjur, A., Martínez, R., Stallard, R. F., García, T., Angehr, G. R., Petit, L., Wright, S. J., Robinson, T. R. and Heckadon, S.: 2001, 'The status of the Panama Canal watershed and its biodiversity: At the beginning of the 21st century', BioScience 51, 389–398.Google Scholar
  16. Condit, R., Watts, K., Bohlman, S. A., Pérez, R., Hubbell, S. P. and Foster, R. B.: 2000, 'Quantifying the deciduousness of tropical forest canopies under varying climates', J. of Veget. Sci. 11, 649–658.Google Scholar
  17. Croat, T. R.: 1978, Flora of Barro Colorado Island, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California.Google Scholar
  18. Curran, L. M., Caniago, I. A., Paoli, G. D., Astianti, D., Kusneti, M., Leighton, M., Nirarita, C. E. and Haeruman, H.: 1999, 'Impact of El Niño and logging on canopy tree recruitment in Borneo', Sci. 286, 2184–2188.Google Scholar
  19. D'Arcy, W. G.: 1987, Flora of Panama, Part II, Index, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Missouri.Google Scholar
  20. Douglas, I.: 1990, 'Sediment Transfer and Siltation', in B. L. Turner, W. C. Clark and R. W. Kates (eds), The Earth as Transformed by Human Action: Global and Regional Changes in the Biosphere over the Past 300 Years, Cambridge University Press, New York, pp. 215–234.Google Scholar
  21. Engleman, D., Angehr, G. R. and Allen, M.: 1995, Lista de Aves de Panamá. Volumen I: Ciudad de Panamá y Alrededores, Panama Audobon Society, Panama City, Panama.Google Scholar
  22. Erwin, T. L.: 1982, 'Tropical forests: Their richness in Coleoptera and other arthropod species'. Coleopterists' Bull. 36, 74–75.Google Scholar
  23. Erwin, T. L.: 1995, 'Measuring Arthropod Biodiversity in the Tropical Forest Canopy', in M. D. Lowman and N. M. Nadkarni (eds), Forest Canopies, Academic Press, San Diego, pp. 109–127.Google Scholar
  24. Foster, R. B. and Brokaw, N. V. L.: 1982, 'Structure and History of the Vegetation of Barro Colorado Island', in E. G. Leigh Jr., A. S. Rand and D. M. Windsor (eds), The Ecology of a Tropical Forest: Seasonal Rhythms and Long-Term Changes, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., pp. 67–81.Google Scholar
  25. Foster, R. B. and Hubbell, S. P.: 1990, 'The Floristic Composition of the Barro Colorado Island Forest', in A. Gentry (ed.), Four Neotropical Forests, Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut, pp. 85–98.Google Scholar
  26. Heckadon-Moreno, S., Ibáñez, R. and Condit, R., (eds): 1999, La Cuenca del Canal: Deforestación, Urbanización, y Contaminación, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Balboa, Panama, and Impresilibros, S.A., Colombia.Google Scholar
  27. Holdridge, L. R.: 1967, Life Zone Ecology, Tropical Science Center, San José, Costa Rica.Google Scholar
  28. Hutchings, M. J.: 1991, 'Monitoring Plant Populations: Census as an Aid to Conservation', in B. Goldsmith (ed.), Monitoring for Conservation and Ecology, Chapman and Hall, London, pp. 61–76.Google Scholar
  29. Ibáñez, R., Rand, A. S. and Jaramillo, C. A.: 1999, Los Anfibios del Monumento Natural Barro Colorado, Parque Nacional Soberanía y Areas Adyacentes, Editorial Mizrachi & Pujol, Panama.Google Scholar
  30. Ibáñez, R., Aguilar, S., Sanjur, A., Martínez, R., Condit, R., Stallard, R., Heckadon, S., and Lao, S.: 1999, 'Proyecto Monitoreo de la Cuenca del Canal', Reporte Anual Técnico, United States Agency for International Development, Autoridad Nacional del Medio Ambiente (Panama), and Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama City, Panama.Google Scholar
  31. Karr, J. R.: 1999, 'Defining and measuring river health', Freshwater Biol. 41, 221–234.Google Scholar
  32. Karr, J. R.: 1997, 'Extinction of Birds on Barro Colorado Island, Panama', in G. K. Meffe, C. R. Carroll and contributors (eds), Principles of Conservation Biology, Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, Massachusetts, pp. 131–132.Google Scholar
  33. Karr, J. R. and Chu, E. W.: 1999, Restoring Life in Running Waters: Better Biological Monitoring, Island Press, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  34. Keddy, P. A.: 1991, 'Biological Monitoring and Ecological Prediction', in B. Goldsmith (ed.), Monitoring for Conservation and Ecology, Chapman and Hall, London, pp. 249–267.Google Scholar
  35. Larsen,M. C. and Simon, A.: 1993, 'A rainfall intensity-duration threshold for landslides in a humid-tropical environment, Puerto Rico', Geografiska Annaler 75A, 13–23.Google Scholar
  36. Larsen, M. C. and Torres Sanchez, A. J.: 1996, 'Geographic relations of landslide distribution and assessment of landslide hazards in the Blanco, Cibuco, and Coamo basins, Puerto Rico. San Juan', Puerto Rico, U. S. Geological Survey, 56 pp.Google Scholar
  37. Larsen, M. C. and Torres Sanchez, A. J.: 1998, 'The frequency and distribution of recent landslides in three montane tropical regions of Puerto Rico', Geomorphology 24, 309–331.Google Scholar
  38. Leigh Jr., E. G.: 1999, Tropical Forest Ecology: A View from Barro Colorado Island, Oxford University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  39. Leigh Jr., E. G., Rand, S. A. and Windsor, D. M. (eds): 1982, The Ecology of a Tropical Forest: Seasonal Rhythms and Long-Term Changes, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  40. Lillesand, T. M. and Kiefer, R. W.: 1987, Remote Sensing and Image Interpretation, Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  41. Lips, K. R.: 1999, 'Mass mortality and population declines of anurans at an upland site in western Panama', Cons. Biol. 13, 117–125.Google Scholar
  42. Marcot, B. G.: 1997, 'Biodiversity of Old Forests of the West: A Lesson from our Elders', in K. A. Kohm and J. F. Franklin (eds), Creating a Forestry for the 21st Century, Island Press, Washington, D.C. pp. 87–105.Google Scholar
  43. Myers, N., Mittermeier, R. A., Mittermeier, C. G., da Fonseca, G. A. B. and Kent, J.: 2000, 'Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities', Nature 403, 853–858.Google Scholar
  44. Ødegaard, F.: 2000, 'The relative importance of trees versus lianas as hosts for phytophagous beetles in tropical forests', J. Biogeogr. 27, 283–296.Google Scholar
  45. Palmer, C. J. and Jones, K. B.: 1992, 'United States Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program – An Overview', in Remote Sensing and Permanent Plot Techniques for World Forest Monitoring, Pattaya, Thailand, IUFRO and the Faculty of Forestry, Katsetsart University. pp. 59–70.Google Scholar
  46. Pitman, N. C. A., Terborgh, J., Silman, M. R., NÚñez, V. P., Neill, D. A., Palacios, W. A., Aulestia, M. and Céron, C. E.: 2001, 'Dominance and distribution of tree species in upper Amazonian terra firme forests', Ecology 82, 2101–2117.Google Scholar
  47. Pyke, C. R., Condit, R., Aguilar, S. and Lao, S.: 2001, 'Floristic composition across a climatic gradient in a neotropical lowland forest', J. Vegetation Sci. 12, 553–566.Google Scholar
  48. Rand, A. S. and Myers, C. W.: 1990, 'The Herpetofauna of Barro Colorado Island, Panama: An Ecological Summary', in A. H. Gentry (ed.), Four Neotropical Forests, Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut, pp. 386–409.Google Scholar
  49. Ridgely, R. S. and Gwynne, J. A.: 1989, A Guide to the Birds of Panama, with Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.Google Scholar
  50. Robinson, J. G., Redford, K. H. and Bennett, E. L.: 1999, 'Wildlife harvest in logged tropical forests', Science 284, 595–596.Google Scholar
  51. Robinson, W. D.: 1999, 'Long-term changes in the avifauna of Barro Colorado Island, Panama, a tropical forest isolate', Cons. Biol. 13, 85–97.Google Scholar
  52. Romoleroux, K., Foster, R., Valencia, R., Condit, R., Balslev, H. and Losos, E.: 1997, 'Especies leñosas (dap > 1 cm) Encontradas en dos Hectáreas de un Bosque de la Amazonía Ecuatoriana', in R. Valencia and H. Balslev (eds), Estudios Sobre Diversidad y Ecología de Plantas, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, Quito, pp. 189–215Google Scholar
  53. Rubinoff, I. and Leigh Jr., E. G.: 1990, 'Dealing with diversity: The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and tropical biology', Trends Ecol. Evol. 5, 115–118.Google Scholar
  54. Shaw III, C.,G.: 1992, 'Forest Health Monitoring – A New Paradigm of the USDAForest Service and Environmental Protection Agency', in Remote Sensing and Permanent Plot Techniques for World Forest Monitoring, Pattaya, Thailand, IUFRO and the Faculty of Forestry, Katsetsart University, pp. 43–47.Google Scholar
  55. Standley, P. C.: 1933, The Flora of Barro Colorado Island, Panama, The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.Google Scholar
  56. Stotz, D. F., Fitzpatrick, J. W., Parker III, T. A. and Moskovits, D. K.: 1996, Neotropical Birds: Ecology and Conservation, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.Google Scholar
  57. Tutzauer, J. R.: 1990, Madden Reservoir Sedimentation, 1984–1986. Balboa Heights, Republic of Panama, Panama Canal Commission, Hydrology Section, Meteorological and Hydrographic Branch, Engineering Division, 103 pp.Google Scholar
  58. Wadsworth, F. H.: 1978, Deforestation – Death to the Panama Canal, U. S. Strategy Conference on Tropical Deforestation, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  59. Wright, S. J., Zeballos, H., Domínguez, I., Gallardo, M. M., Moreno, M. C. and Ibáñez, R.: 2000, 'Poachers alter mammal abundance, seed dispersal and seed predation in a Neotropical forest', Cons. Biol. 14, 227–239.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roberto Ibáñez
    • 1
    • 2
  • Richard Condit
    • 1
  • George Angehr
    • 1
  • Salomón Aguilar
    • 1
    • 2
  • Tomas GarcÍa
    • 1
    • 2
  • Raul MartÍnez
    • 1
    • 2
  • Amelia Sanjur
    • 2
  • Robert Stallard
    • 3
  • S. Joseph Wright
    • 1
  • A. Stanley Rand
    • 1
  • Stanley Heckadon
    • 1
  1. 1.Smithsonian Tropical Research InstituteMiamiU.S.A. and
  2. 2.Proyecto Monitoreo Cuenca del CanalAutoridad Nacional del AmbienteAncón, PanamáRepública de Panamá
  3. 3.United States Geological Survey-WRDBoulderU.S.A

Personalised recommendations