The objective of my research project is to carry out a rapid assessment of the riparian avian community in the Panama Canal Watershed to explore how bird diversity and abundance are related to land uses including revegetation treatments. This research project fits into a broader study called the Agua Salud Project, which seeks to understand and quantify the diverse set of ecological, social, and economic services provided by tropical forests in the Panama Canal Watershed. The field site includes the Agua Salud Watershed and the headwaters of several adjacent rivers. One of the main objectives of the Agua Salud Project is to quantify the effect of different land uses on biodiversity values. However, there is a lack of information regarding bird species using riparian habitats. My research project seeks to fill this gap.
The decline of forest bird populations with the increase of forest loss to agriculture and other human land uses in the American tropics has been documented by several long-term studies. However, different types of land uses hold profoundly different consequences for bird diversity.
Conservation requires effective monitoring of species distributions and abundances in order to assess the relative importance of different sites, the effectiveness of management activities and population trends. In this regard, rapid assessments can generate high quality data sets to inform conservation policy for understudied and relatively unknown tropical areas.
An enormous global research effort has focused on understanding the dynamics of riparian zones (i.e., the biotic communities living on the shores of streams, rivers and lakes). Riparian areas are among the most important biosphere’s ecological systems for maintaining the vitality of the landscape and its rivers. To reverse the effects of clearing of tropical rainforests, revegetation is advocated to assist in arresting declines in biodiversity; however there has been little research on the effects of revegetation on wildlife. Southern Central America provides an ideal opportunity for assessing drivers of change in local species richness, especially in lowland tropical forests in central Panama, near the Panama Canal.
In order to compare bird species richness and abundance in riparian habitats among the different land uses, we will sample birds using fixed-radius point counts (25 m radius) to record all visual signs of birds. The survey points will be located in the banks of the streams and/or rivers within each of the 14 transects that were already defined in a preliminary study carried out by the scientific staff of the Agua Salud Project.
The composition of riparian wildlife communities is influenced by stream size and habitat characteristics associated with forest successional stage. Thus, to associate habitat features with bird counts, we will sample stream/river characteristics including vegetation.
This research project will be, to the best of our knowledge, the first study reporting information about the effect of different land uses on avian diversity and abundance in the riparian habitats of the Panama Canal Watershed. This information will help to choose whether to focus conservation actions to protect the populations of this group of species. Furthermore, since the Agua Salud Project is a long-term project, the results obtained will be useful as a first reference to be compared to the results of future surveys in the area.
WHO AM I?
I completed my PhD at the Estación Biológica de Doñana (Seville, Spain), a centre belonging to the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), in 2011. During the period 2005-2011 I explored diverse aspects of the ecology of waterbirds and the role of agriculture in their conservation, studying how birds use rice fields nearby the National Park of Doñana. The results of these works have been published in several international scientific journals and they will help to choose the best management actions in the area. Now I would like to carry out a project so that my experience and knowledge on the ecology of waterbirds can help the conservation of the tropical species in such an important place for them: the Panama Canal Watershed.
At present I combine the publication of my works in international scientific journals with nature photography. You can see some of my images here.
OTHER RESEARCHERS INVOLVED
This project (you can find the full text in the project's blog), has been revised and will become true thanks to Dra. Sunshine A. Go Bael and Dr. Jefferson S. Hall, researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama that have carried out previous work and are currently working in the study area. Their help and advice have been and will be crucial to carry out this project with guarantees of success.
WHEN? The project will be carry out this summer, during the months of July and August of 2012.
WHAT IS THE MONEY FOR? The money raised will serve to pay the project expenses including airfares, accomodation, food and transportation in Panama and also the production of the rewards.
WANT TO KNOW MORE? you have the full text of the scientific project in the project's blog.