Cache of rare and undiscovered species under threat in Panama
April 21, 2008
In a resolution passed earlier this month, the ATBC urged Panamanian policymakers to support conservation efforts set in place by Mr. Guido Berguido, the operator of a small ecotourism business. It was Berguido who first identified the biological significance of Cerro Chucantí, a 1440-meter-high massif located 120 kilometers east of Panama City, and then raised funds to protect tracts of forest from developers.
"Scientists are realizing that Cerro Chucantí is one of the biological jewels of Panama--an exceptional hotspot of biodiversity and endemism," said Dr. William F. Laurance, a scientist with ATBC. "Clearly this imperiled area merits formal protection, and we very much hope the Panamanian government will be able to help."
"Guido Berguido is almost single handedly staging an enormous effort to get Cerro Chucantí designated as a national park."
Local biological hotspot
Harpy Eagle in Panama
Cerro Chucantí may also serve as an important corridor for wildlife, according to ATBC scientists.
"The natural vegetation at Cerro Chucantí provides a continuous elevational gradient, ranging from mangrove forests on the Pacific coast, to lowland tropical rainforest, to mid-elevation and montane forest, and finally to cloud forest on the mountain's summit," stated the resolution. "Each of these elevational zones contains specific assemblages of animal and plant species that are adapted to narrow thermal ranges and microhabitats. Many native bird, bat, and insect species in the tropics require continuous elevational gradients in order to undertake seasonal movements while foraging for fruit, nectar, and other resources... Continuous elevational gradients such as that at Cerro Chucantí will be crucial in the future to permit species migrations in response to global warming and climatic change."
Tropical forest in Panama
"The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation," stated the resolution, "urges the National Government of the Republic of Panama to declare an immediate moratorium on non-traditional deforestation and forest degradation in the greater Cerro Chucantí area."
ATBC "recommends that the Panamanian Government as well as international-aid organizations and relevant nongovernmental groups collectively provide adequate financial and logistical resources to ensure that remaining forests within the proposed Chucantí Protected Area are monitored and protected in perpetuity."