Have you been to Pipeline Road?

By Raffaele Capomolla

Do you enjoy being immersed in beautiful nature? Just 50 minutes from Panama City near a village called “Gamboa” there is Soberania National Park, where you can find amazing bird diversity, monkeys, sloths, insects and beautiful Flora!

pipeline1

Hike through the historical pipeline road. Oh, what is the pipeline road? During World War 2, across the isthmus of Panama, a petroleum pipeline and its service road were built, which allows the entry through the center of this marvelous national park.

After the hiking, enjoy a boat trip through the canal, where you will see those breathtaking, giant ships passing by a few steps from you, until you’ll end up in the Gatun lake!

Do you want to know why and in which situations the Alpha Monkeys in the rain forest starts to yowl? Our great Guide Jorge will tell you all about the animals in this amazing National park, the history of the pipeline, the canal and much more on this beautiful tour!

For more information click here.

 

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Por primera vez se logra criar en cautiverio a una rana venenosa de dardo recientemente descrita

rana-dorada2Comunicado de Prensa:

Científicos del Instituto de Biología de la Conservación del Smithsonian (SCBI por sus siglas en inglés) y el Instituto Smithsonian de Investigaciones Tropicales (STRI), que trabajan en el Proyecto de Rescate y Conservación de Anfibios de Panamá (PARC) lograron criar la primera Andinobates geminisae nacida en cautiverio. Ésta es una diminuta especie de rana venenosa de dardo que sólo crece 14 milímetros, por primera vez colectada en una pequeña zona en Panamá Central y descrita el año pasado. Colaboradores científicos colectaron y nos entregaron dos adultos con el propósito de evaluar el potencial para el mantenimiento de esta especie en cautiverio como una población de aseguranza.

“Hay un verdadero arte en aprender acerca de la historia natural de un animal y encontrar el conjunto adecuado de señales ambientales para estimular la cría en cautiverio exitosa”, comentó Brian Gratwicke, biólogo de la conservación de anfibios en SCBI y director del Proyecto de Rescate y Conservación de Anfibios de Panamá, PARC. “No todos los anfibios son fáciles de criar en cautiverio, así que cuando logramos criar una especie por primera vez, es un verdadero hito para nuestro proyecto y un motivo de celebración.”

Los científicos simularon las condiciones para la reproducción de las ranas adultas en un pequeño tanque. Las ranas pusieron un huevo en una hoja de bromelia, que luego se transfirió a un plato Petri húmedo. Después de 14 días, el renacuajo eclosionó. Los científicos creen que las ranas adultas de A. geminisae pueden proporcionar cuidados paternos a sus huevos y renacuajos, cosa que no es rara en las ranas de dardo, pero no han sido capaces de determinar si ese es el caso. En la naturaleza, uno de los padres transporta al renacuajo en su espalda hacia un pequeño charco de agua, por lo general dentro de un árbol o entre las hojas de una bromelia.

Después de que el renacuajo eclosionó, los científicos lo trasladaron del plato Petri a una pequeña taza de agua, imitando los pequeños charcos naturales. Con una dieta de comida para peces, después de 75 días el renacuajo se transformó exitosamente en una rana joven y ahora es del tamaño de un adulto maduro.

Los científicos del Proyecto de Rescate y Conservación de Anfibios de Panamá no están seguros si la A. geminisae es susceptible al hongo quitridio que está matando a anfibios. Sin embargo, ya que esta especie sólo se encuentra en un área pequeña de Panamá y depende de bosques tropicales primarios, que están bajo la presión por la conversión agrícola, la han identificado como una especie de conservación prioritaria.

“Más aún, esta especie parece tener una distribución muy agrupada dentro de la pequeña área donde se le encontró,” comentó Roberto Ibáñez, cientifico del Smithsonian en Panamá y director nacional del PARC. “Aparentemente, sus poblaciones están asociadas a ciertos filos a lo largo de los valles formados por quebradas, lo cual puede complicar su conservación al requerirse que varios de estos sitios estén dentro de áreas protegidas.”

El Proyecto de Rescate y Conservación de Anfibios de Panamá cría especies de ranas en peligro de extinción en Gamboa, Panamá y El Valle de Antón, Panamá. Este proyecto es una asociación entre el Zoológico de Houston, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, el Zoológico de Nueva Inglaterra, SCBI y STRI. Este estudio contó con el apoyo de Minera Panamá y Biodiversity Consultant Group.

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El Instituto Smithsonian de Investigaciones Tropicales en Panamá, es una unidad de la Institución Smithsonian. El Instituto promueve la comprensión de la naturaleza tropical y su importancia para el bienestar de la humanidad; capacita estudiantes para llevar a cabo investigaciones en los trópicos; y fomenta la conservación mediante la concienciación pública sobre la belleza e importancia de los ecosistemas tropicales. Sitio web: http://www.stri.si.edu

Contacto de prensa: Beth King, kingb@si.edu o
Sonia Tejada, tejadas@si.edu

EcoCircuitos Business Objectives

By Annie Young J.

A while ago I heard the quote by Mahatma Gandhi, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony”.

This quote really hit home for me and since I have heard it has become one of my mottos in life. Before returning home from a study abroad program where I volunteered with a conservation organization I went on a backpacking trip that inspired me to create EcoCircuitos Panama (1999). After this trip I realized that I wanted to share my passion for Panama with the rest of the world in a different way.

As a dreamer, I felt that we could connect conservation, social development and tourism. This has been my goal since I began EcoCircuitos Panama. It has not been easy… sometimes promoting responsible travel is more difficult that the classical approach, but we believe that it can be done.

The EcoCircuitos Panama team including myself has evolved since the company began. I have learned from many different people that have worked with me all these years that in today’s world you have to give something back… not just take.

Today we are a team of local enthusiasts about Panama. On a daily basis we learn from each other sharing, our dreams for sustainable development. It is important to me to motivate each member of my team to create, innovate and collaborate in an environment where it is not only my vision that is followed.

Our objectives as a company are very clear to us:

– Create low-impact tours and experiences that are appealing to our clients.

– Increase the level of awareness amongst travelers and turning them in effective agents for conservation.

– Channel a portion of our revenues towards supporting the conservation and sustainable use of Panama´s biodiversity.

– Reduce poverty through environmental conscious income generation activities and employment, which effectively decrease the threat to biodiversity in our local communities.

– Encourage active participation and involvement of local communities in the development, operation and monitoring of tourism activities.

This is our responsibility as a tour operator and DMC in Panama, and we are a happy team that is following a beautiful dream.

Mango Mango

Mango_TommyAtkins02_Asit

By Jorge Ventocilla

Mango production is different every year; and every season is different for each and every mango tree. Some experts say that it all depends on the characteristics of each dry season. They also say that different branches produce different amount of mangoes and I see mangoes everywhere.

Coming back from the countryside a few weeks ago, I was looking at the landscape through the bus window, at least visible areas not hidden by advertisements, and found myself counting how many mango trees were along the road (per kilometer). I counted a minimum of fifteen trees per kilometer.

There are so many mango trees in Panama that it may lead us to think that they are native to this country.  Truth be told, Mangifera indica, scientific name of the tree, comes from India; Eastern India, Myanmar (Burma) and Andaman Islands, to be exact.

For complete article please click here.

Panama fish catch 40 percent larger than reported

By STRI

Panama is said to mean “abundance of fish.” Until recently Panama was also synonymous with bountiful fisheries. A new study estimates that between 1950 and 2010, the haul was so considerable officials could not keep tabs on more than a third of the catch. As fish stocks dwindle, this revelation may contribute to establishing sustainable fisheries in Panama and the region.

For three years Héctor Guzmán of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and colleagues from the University of British Columbia compiled official data and dozens of studies of off-the-books fisheries. They cautiously estimated that almost 40 percent of the total catch — including tuna, lobster, shellfish and shark — was unaccounted for.

“We estimated missing and under-reported components very conservatively so this is likely still an underestimate of what is being removed,” said Sarah Harper, of UBC’s Sea Around Us Project who was the lead author on the study published in Marine Fisheries Review. Guzmán and UBC’s Kyrstn Zylich and Dirk Zeller co-authored the research.

The discrepancy is due to minimal reporting of bycatch by commercial vessels and a dearth of data from recreational, subsistence and artisanal fishers. Illegal fishing by foreign vessels and catches by Panamanian-flagged ships operating from foreign ports also play an important role.

“We were not surprised by these alarming results,” said Guzmán a marine ecologist known for research that underpins regional conservation policy. “This is the first fishery baseline made for Panama. We hope to promote an open and all-inclusive dialogue to implement management tools for sustainable fisheries.”

The researchers recommend an overall reorganization of the fishing sector to include better monitoring, planning and surveillance of fishing zones and better managed marine protected areas. Curtailing carte blanche commercial fishing licenses, which are sometimes species indiscriminate, would also help, said Guzmán.

From anchovies to Sharks

Panama’s industrial fisheries developed in the 1960s to harvest herring and anchovies for fishmeal and oil for export. The scallop fishery reached its apex in the 1980s and collapsed without recovery in 1991. Shrimp, tuna, lobster and conch harvesting continue, with many populations now in decline.

Relatively new targets are sharks, especially hammerheads, for sale of shark fins overseas. Sharks are often harvested in inshore areas, including vulnerable nurseries. “There is likely substantial under-reporting of catches by domestic vessels and possibly a large number of sharks being caught by foreign vessels operating illegally in Panamanian waters,” the authors wrote.

Under-reporting of catch is not unique to Panama and improved monitoring does not have to be prohibitively costly. “Resource-limited countries can still effectively monitor their fisheries by implementing regular, non-annual surveys,” said the authors. “For Panama to retain meaning in its name (“abundance of fish”), fisheries management will need to make substantial improvements.”

Tropical Forests “Fix” Themselves

a view of the Forest in Panama
a view of the Forest in Panama
Soberania National Park
Soberania National Park

From Stri

Tropical forests speed their own recovery, capturing nitrogen and carbon faster after being logged or cleared for agriculture. Researchers working at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama think the discovery that trees “turn up” their ability to capture or “fix” nitrogen from the air and release it into the soil as the forest makes a comeback has far-reaching implications for forest restoration projects to mitigate global warming.

“This is the first solid case showing how nitrogen fixation by tropical trees directly affects the rate of carbon recovery after agricultural fields are abandoned,” said Jefferson Hall, STRI staff scientist. “Trees turn nitrogen fixation on and off according to the need for nitrogen in the system.”

The researchers’ findings suggest that the role of tropical forests in offsetting the atmospheric buildup of carbon from fossil fuels depends on tree diversity. Though legumes are not specifically coveted or threatened, forest degradation comes with a general loss of biodiversity. The essential role of legumes in tropical-forest health and speed-of-recovery implies that if their numbers plummet then the health of the surrounding forest would likely be affected for a very long time. The photo above is of a tropical forest on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

Hall directs the Agua Salud Project, an experiment spanning more than a square mile of the Panama Canal watershed. Researchers compare land-use options, measuring carbon storage, runoff and biodiversity to find out how mature tropical forest, native trees in forest restoration plots and abandoned pastureland compare. The project hosted the collaboration between scientists at Princeton University, Wageningen University, the University of Copenhagen, Yale University and STRI to explore the relationship between nitrogen fixation and carbon storage.

They compared the tree growth rate and nitrogen levels on pastureland abandoned two, 12, 30 and 80 years ago with trees growing in mature forests. Tree species that “fixed” nitrogen from the atmosphere put on carbon weight up to nine times faster than their non-fixing neighbors during early stages of forest recovery. Nitrogen-fixers provided enough nitrogen fertilizer in the soil to facilitate storage of 50,000 kilograms of carbon per hectare during the first 12 years of growth.

“Diversity really matters,” said the study’s first author, Sarah Batterman, who worked collaboratively on the project with Lars Hedin at Princeton University. “Each tree species fixes nitrogen and carbon differently so species important at 12 years drop out or become less common at 30 years. You can really see how different players contribute to the development of a mature tropical forest and the ecosystem services it provides.”

Reference: Batterman, S.A., Hedin, L.O., van Breugel, M., Ransjin, J., Craven, D.J., Hall, J.S. 2013. Key role of symbiotic N2 fixation in tropical forest secondary succession. Nature. doi:10.1038/nature12525

Can secondary forests capture carbon faster?

Joseph Wright
Joseph Wright

From:  STRI.org

There are an estimated five million square kilometers of abandoned farmland and logged forests in the tropics. This area, which is more than half the size of the United States, could become an important carbon sink if reclaimed by forests. Within 25 years a secondary forest can absorb as much as 80 percent of the CO2 that is held in a mature forest. Joseph Wright, a STRI forest ecologist doesn’t think that’s enough carbon, given how quickly humans are pumping it to the atmosphere. “I think we can do better,” he says.

The reason is that quickly removing a large amount of carbon from the atmosphere and locking it away for centuries is not something most tree species do well. Many grow too slowly, are too small, die too young or are not dense enough to rise to the task. Doubling the amount of carbon held in a forest might be as straightforward as slightly increasing the number of fast-growing, long-lived, high density, massive individuals in it.

This might not only be possible, it might also be profitable, says Wright, who is testing the thesis with a new reforestation experiment in western Panama. The experiment draws on 30 years of data he has collected on the life cycles of Panama’s hundreds of trees, the discount equations economists apply to carbon pricing and the latest prices for carbon offsets in Australia, Europe and British Columbia.

“We’ve been studying these trees for 30 years and hopefully we’ve learned some things about them that are useful,” says Wright.

Useful things include knowing what trees meet the desired criteria to manage a forest with higher-than average carbon storage: rapid growth, large mature size, and high wood density, all of which increase the amount of carbon stored by the tree. The Dipteryx and Terminalia trees Wright selected for the experiment also grow tall in full sunlight, as opposed to branching early in absence of neighboring trees. These potentially 40- to 50-meter-tall canopy giants usually rise to the canopy top late in secondary succession through gaps created by fallen trees. In mature forests, they account for a much greater percentage of stored carbon relative to their population size. In this experiment, Wright hopes to give them a low-investment head start, increasing the future mature forest’s population density of these trees as shade-tolerant trees gradually fill the understory and restore the area’s former biodiversity.

“I think we can skip an intermediate step of succession dominated by smaller, trees and go straight to the 30-40-meter tall forest,” says Wright. In 2010, Wright and his team planted hundreds of Dipteryx panamensis and Terminalia amazonia trees in quarter-hectare plot pairs across 50 hectares of former grazing pasture in Veraguas province in Western Panama.”If we end up with just ten of those surviving (per quarter hectare), we will have a forest that will have twice the biomass of an unmanaged forest in Panama,” says Wright. Even if survival is only ten per hectare, the forest will hold about 40 percent more carbon than it would otherwise, says Wright, who hopes to try a similar experiment with six species with complementary resource requirements to increase the likelihood of establishing a still denser forest.

Whether enough trees will survive is a question that will take many years to answer. In the higher-than-normal species density situation that Wright has created, pests might be a problem in the short-term. After two years, the plantations are doing well with the young trees up to 10 m tall and no signs of pest outbreaks.

Carbon offset prices currently mandated in California, British Colombia and Australia make the enterprise profitable on otherwise abandoned lands and there are two million square kilometers of such lands in the tropics. The international community, however, lacks a mechanism to recompense governments for augmented carbon sequestration in secondary forests. Wright believes that as atmospheric CO2 concentrations and global temperatures continue to climb, this mechanism will appear.