New Model of Climate Change Effects on Coffee Availability and Bee Pollinators

Overcoming Doomsday Scenarios Depends on Biological Intelligence

From STRI

Areas in Latin America suitable for growing coffee face predicted declines of 73-88 percent by 2050. However, diversity in bee species may save the day, even if many species in cool highland regions are lost as the climate warms. The research, co-authored by David Roubik, senior scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, will be published in early online Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences edition between Sept. 11-15.Scientists David Roubik

“For my money, we do a far superior job of predicting the future when we consider both plants and animals (or in this case the bees) and their biology,” Roubik said. “Traditional models don’t build in the ability of organisms to change. They’re based on the world as we know it now, not on the way it could be as people and other organisms adapt.”

A research team modeled impacts for Latin America, the largest coffee-growing region under several global-warming scenarios—considering both the plants and the bees. The team consisted of bee experts from the Smithsonian in Panama; the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Vietnam; the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center in Costa Rica; Conservation International and the University of Vermont in the U.S.; CIRAD in France; and CIFOR in Peru.

Despite predicted declines in total bee species, in all scenarios at least five bee species were left in future coffee-suitable areas; in about half of the areas, 10 bee species were left.Mountain in Panama

For land no longer suitable for coffee production, the team recommended management strategies to help farmers switch to other crops or production systems. In areas where bee diversity is expected to decrease, but coffee can still be grown, adaptation strategies may include increasing bee habitat and maintaining native bees. Many coffee types prefer to grow in the shade of tall trees. Choosing tree species that favor bees are a win-win strategy, according to the authors.

Roubik’s favorite example of a potentially huge environmental change that did not play out as predicted is the case of Africanized honey bees, which were accidentally released in Brazil in 1957. Roubik’s studies in Panama of coffee pollination taking native rainforest bees into consideration began in the 1970s as the aggressive non-native Africanized honey bees swarmed north through Latin America. Doomsayers predicted the worst: that the killer bees would disrupt the delicate balance between tropical forest species and their native pollinators. Roubik discovered the opposite to be true. In lowland tropical forests in Mexico, plants pollinated by very busy Africanized bees ended up producing more flowers, thus making more pollen and nectar available to native bees.

“Africanized honey bees in the Western Hemisphere both regulate their nest temperature and their own body temperature using water,” Roubik said. “When the climate is hotter—unless it’s too dry—they’re better adapted to endure climate change and pollinate coffee—an African plant.”

By paying attention to biological processes and managing coffee for maximum pollination depending upon the effects of climate on both the plants and the bees, as well as strategically adjusting shade, rotating crops and conserving natural forests, it may be possible for coffee producers to adapt to climate change.

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, headquartered in Panama City, Panama, is a unit of the Smithsonian Institution. The Institute furthers the understanding of tropical biodiversity and its importance to human welfare, trains students to conduct research in the tropics and promotes conservation by increasing public awareness of the beauty and importance of tropical ecosystems. Website: http://www.stri.si.edu/. Promo video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9JDSIwBegk.

Contact us for academic travel and join amazing experts in different fiels on the isthmus that change the world:  Panama!  for details info@ecocircuitos.com

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Imbach, P., Fung, E., Hannah, L. et al. 2017 Coffee, bees, and climate: Coupling of pollination services and agriculture under climate change. PNAS. www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1617940114

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Searching for Manatees on Sixaola River

where are the manatees?

If you travel along the Sixaola River this year, you might come across a rather unusual vehicle: a brightly pained floating school bus.

While at first glance it seems to be something out of a fantastic children’s story or the pursuit of someone not quite connected to reality as we know it, this bus is indeed conducting serious scientific research.

Equipped with dual-frequency side-scan sonar and hydrophone arrays, the bus is the newest research vessel of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, out on the river between Costa Rica and Panama to find manatees.

The man behind this research is STRI’s marine biologist Héctor Guzmán, who already has experience tracking humpback whales, sharks and sea turtles. The waters of the Sixaola River are so murky though, that his research proves to be challenging: The manatees he is researching are simply not visible, so the researchers rely on acoustic cues and tagged animals to track the movements of the big mammals. Knowing how many manatees live in the Sixaola, how they move and which places they prefer to feed, sleep or reproduce will be a great help in developing a sustainable protection plan for them.

The River used to be the home of much larger manatee populations than the estimated 20-30 animals who live there now, but pollution, as well as hunting led to a drastic decrease in numbers.

This project is part of a larger research assessing the biodiversity in the entire area in order to provide a functional conservation program for the Sixaola and its surroundings. It is being conducted by the STRI and the Universidad de Costa Rica Mario Rivera, and supported by the Interamerican Development Bank and the United Nations Global Environment Facility.

A Fantastic Journey: Part 5

Barro Colorado Island

By Louie Celerier

Tuesday was another early starting day, 6:00 am to be exact, in order to get to Gamboa in time for the launch to Barro Colorado, the wildlife island refuge operated by the Smithsonian Institute in the middle of Gatun Lake. EcoCircuitos was, as always, right on time.
Barro Colorado is not for the casual tourist. This is a place for the study of insect, plant and animal life. Nevertheless, I wanted to go there and satisfy my curiosity about the place. I was fully rewarded, but the trip taxed my stamina. I had expected mild climbing and mostly even ground. This was not so. Much climbing and going steeply down was involved.
Arriving at the island around 8:30 am, we faced the first climb immediately. The dock was at the bottom of a very steep hill and the main building was quite a way up this hill. The steps I climbed rivaled anything in San Francisco, or so it seemed to me. Reaching the building with my lungs about to burst, I was faced with another set of stairs inside the building to go to the top floor. There, we were given complimentary coffee and, because they felt sorry for me, they let me have two delicious carimañolas left over from the staff breakfast, at no charge. After a short break, we were ushered to a conference room for a short lecture about what we were about to do and see. Some of it was above my comprehension, but several in the group were there to study and they really understood it all and could hardly wait to get started.
We left the building and immediately we were faced with a very steep climb into the forest. After climbing for a short, but difficult, time, we stopped because a group of howler monkeys had been spotted. They started howling when they saw us, but I don’t know who was making more noise, they with their howling, or I with my wheezing. The next series of climbs were more gradual and, because the naturalists in the group were involved in bird watching and plant admiration, I was able to rest a bit. Then, I broke from the group and climbed ahead until I came to a clearing with some crude benches. I picked the best of the lot and laid down to wait for the group. Thanks to this, I was fully refreshed when they caught up with me and I had no more trouble keeping up with the group from there on. Well, I lie a bit. The climbs were not as steep from there on and, after a while, we started to come down. Two and a half hours after starting our trek, we reached the main building again.
This time we were fed an excellent Panamanian lunch. After a short rest, we were again ushered into the conference room for a bit more information and to answer any questions we may have had. By then, our main subject of conversation were the many ticks and chiggers we had picked up during our hike. It  became a game to see who could spot ticks quicker running up our clothes. By 3:30 pm it was time to catch the staff boat taking workers getting off work back to the mainland at Gamboa.
EcoCircuitos met us at the dock and took us to the big and beautiful Gamboa resort for refreshments before heading back to our hotel. We ran into some classmates there and, as much as I try, I cannot remember who they were. Please forgive me and make allowances for old age. If you read this, please remind me who you were as the suspense is killing me.
While at the resort, we had a good, but short rain shower. Something they tell me is not uncommon for Gamboa, even in dry season as it was then. We left the resort driving a bit through what is left of the town of Gamboa and photographing a beautiful Guayacan tree in full yellow bloom. I kept thinking back how interesting it might have been to grow up in Gamboa, isolated from the rest of the world and with all that bountiful nature around. Not for the weak at heart, I bet. Kids that grew up there must have wonderful memories and tales to tell.
The remaining houses in Gamboa have been refurbished and look very good, as the photos will show. I guess the folks living there are still working for the dredging division, as I believe was the case in the past. Correct me if I am wrong. The place looked very clean and neat.
Finally, we headed for our hotel in the city under a misty rain, which cleared after leaving the Gamboa area. That night I dreamed about climbing stairs and mountains.

Every Monday we publish part of Louis Celerier’s mesmerizing tale of how he rediscovered the country of his childhood. Subscribe to this blog or follow us on Facebook to make sure not to miss anything! If you also have a story you would like to share with us, or if you are interested in taking a Fantastic Journey yourself, let us know in the comments or by email at marketing@ecocircuitos.com

New Birding Tour in Bocas del Toro

Tranquilo Bay is ready to announce the addition of guided birding trips on the Western Caribbean Slope to their excursions.

Tranquilo Bay has been birding the Western Caribbean Slope for many years and in 2008 hired two full time biologist, that combined have 16 years of experience working in the Province of Bocas del Toro.
birding tours panama
In western Panama the Caribbean Slope of the Talamanca mountain range, Tranquilo Bay’s back yard, plunges some 11,000 feet from the high alpine forest of La Amistad National Park into the lowland rainforests bordering the Caribbean Sea, in a span of less than 40 miles. Within the areas we explore from our comfortable facility the altitude ranges from 7,000 feet to sea level in a zone where nearly 500 species of birds can be found. This extreme biodiversity and high level of endemic species is due to abrupt changes in altitudinal zones and extreme geographic features creating many distinct ecosystems, as well as, migratory corridors.

Tranquilo Bay is located on 100 pristine acres, adjacent to Bastimentos National Marine Park, amongst the convergence of 3 distinct ecosystems. This creates an extremely diverse and unique wildlife observation site where flora and fauna overlap from separate worlds increasing diversity. In a week it is possible to identify over 100 species of birds without leaving the property. There are several elevated porches throughout the facility, creating an incredible eye-level view. While birding onsite you might also encounter white-faced capuchin monkeys, night monkeys, two and three toed sloths, iguanas, caiman, butterflies, a variety of frogs and lizards, and within the canopy a collage of rain forest hardwood and fruit trees, lianas, mangroves, ferns, orchids and cycads.

Some common Birds Of Isla Bastimentos (Common favorites)
Gold Collared Manakin, Three Wattled Bell Bird, Violet Crowned Wood Nymph, Red Lored Amazon Parrots (by the hundreds), Green Ibis, White-Crowned Pigeon, Blue Dacnis, White Hawk, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Green Honeycreeper, Lineated Woodpecker among others.

EcoCircuitos Panama is proud to offer birding tours to Bocas del Toro with a great team of guides. For more information, contact us at annie@ecocircuitos.com or info@ecocircuitos.com

Smithsonian Barro Colorado reforestation: great success!

As part of the HSBC Climate Partnership, the Smithsonian and HSBC Panama have teamed together for a second reforestation in one year. On Saturday August 14, Kelly Walsh, from STRI´s Public Information Office and Climate Champions Adelvis Ortiz and Roberto Delgado, led a lively team of 30 HSBC volunteers to a plot in Parque Soberanía, near the Panama Canal Watershed experiment.

Barro Colorado, Panama

HSBC and the Smithsonian devised a plan to divide the tasks of opening the holes, adding organic fertilizer and planting the seedling, into small groups. This organization was practical, as there was constant movement, allowing HSBC to plant 300 seedlings in three hours.

After hearing a trivial complaint in midst of planting seedlings, someone turned around and said, “The reason we are here planting trees is so that you understand how easy it is to cut trees down and how hard it is for just one to grow back.”

At the Smithsonian in Panama, we study the past, present and future of tropical biodiversity The current climate change phenomena, a worldwide issue, is among our top priorities. Our association with the HSBC Climate Partnership gives us the opportunity to put this research into action, helping to re-establish the forest cover responsible for the environmental services needed for the operation of one of the world´s most important economic waterways.

Information: Kelly Walsh, STRI
Picture: MGuerra/Smithsonian

For tours to Barro Colorado island, contact EcoCircuitos at info@ecocircuitos.com

The Belly bottom of the Americas

Panama is a true biological bridge between North America and South America. The country has a concentration of animals and plants species among the richest in the world and is one of the countries in Central America with more biodiversity.

Barro Colorado
Barro Colorado Island, Panama

This time, we will focus on one of its jewels of this country: the Barro Colorado Island. This extraordinary biodiversity will delight the nature lovers. The Barro Colorado Island (BCNM) is the highest Island in the waters of Gatun Lake. It is located in the Isthmus of Panama and is one of the first protected areas of America. Barro Colorado Island’s unique location and history have made it what may be the most intensively studied piece of tropical forest in the world.
Before the filing of Artificial Gatun Lake, Barro Colorado Island was a hill, full of trees and animals. The needs of the Panama canal, converted the Barro Colorado in a shelter island to the animals in this flooded valley. Very quickly, biologists realized the scientific importance of this tropical sanctuary.

Founded in 1923, the Barro Colorado island has been recognized as a nature reserve in 1979. This preserved ecosystem attracts scientist who study the evolution of the fauna and the flora of the neotropics. On the island live thousands of insects of all kinds, but also 120 species of mammals, half of which are bats. This marvel of biodiversity host more species than all Europe, there are more of 1.200 different plants.
EcoCircuitos propose a Historical and natural Tour, which offers the opportunity to admire a great variety of this wild forest.
The adventure begins at 6:30 AM at your hotel in Panama City, with a car ride through the tropical rainforest towards the small town of Gamboa where a boat is waiting for us in the STRI dock. From there you go on a 45 min – 1 hour boat ride to the Barro Colorado Natural Monument (BCNM), administered by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. You will discover the splendor of the tropical rainforest in Barro Colorado, the largest forested island in the Panama Canal waterway. You will learn about research in progress and the rich natural history of the BCNM.
You will go on a 2-3 hour walk along the trail on Barro Colorado Island. The walk ends at the Visitor Center, where you will find an exhibition regarding BCNM. After the Visitors Center you will head to the cafeteria to have lunch in a student atmosphere. Next time in Panama don´t miss this great adventure tour. For more information, contact us at sales@ecocircuitos.com or call us at + 507 3140068