El papel clave de las tierras canaleras en preservar la herencia natural de Panamá

El papel clave de las tierras canaleras en preservar

el valor de la herencia natural de Panamá

The key role of specific lands in the panama canal area

In preserving the value of Panama’s natural heritage

Los hábitat naturales diversos de Panamá tienen significado mundial proporcionando un corredor biológico para las aves migratorios neotropicales entre el norte y Suramérica. La integridad biológica de la flora y de la fauna de Panamá y sus hábitat respectivos es crucial para la migración de invierno, y a la supervivencia de estas aves migratorias del hemisferio occidental, así como al mantenimiento de la rica y diversa población de aves residentes. Las preocupaciones económicas y biológicas indican fuertemente la necesidad de proteger las porciones críticas de la zona del Canal de Panamá. Estas áreas de la zona, llamadas aquí como la zona ecológica del Atlántico, la zona ecológica del centro del canal, y la zona ecológica del Pacífico, forman una gradiente continuo, que en conjunto con varios tipos de suelos y geología, producen una enorme diversidad que apoyan un conjunto extraordinario de comunidades de plantas y animales. Estas zonas, si están manejadas correctamente, continuarán manteniendo la integridad biológica única del área del canal y proporcionarán una importante y creciente contribución al futuro económico de Panamá.

Panama’s diverse natural habitats have worldwide significance by providing a biological link for neotropical migratory birds between North and South America. The biological integrity of Panama’s flora and fauna and their respective habitats is crucial to the migration, wintering, and survival of birds throughout the Western Hemisphere, as well as to the maintenance of very rich and diverse resident Panamanian bird populations.

Economic and biological concerns strongly indicate the need to protect critical portions of the Panama Canal’s West Bank. These West Bank areas, called here the Atlantic Ecological Zone, the Mid Canal Ecological Zone, and the Pacific Ecological Zone, form a moisture-gradient continuum that, in conjunction with variations in soil type and geology, produce a tremendous habitat diversity supporting an extraordinary array of plant and animals communities. These zones, if managed properly, will continue to maintain the unique biological integrity of the Canal area and will provide an important and increasing contribution to Panama’s economic future.

In 1990, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation initiated the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Program, a domestic and international initiative for the conservation of neotropical migratory birds. Since then, the program has developed into what is better known as the “Partners in Flight-Aves de las Americas Program” with over 110 Federal and State agencies and nongovernmental organizations throughout North, Central, and South America cooperating in the conservation and management of neotropical migratory birds and their habitat. Neotropical migratory birds are those species whose survival is dependent on international/seasonal migrations. Over 360 such bird species breed in the United States or Canada and migrate south to the tropical regions of Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America for the winter.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is one of the key supporters in the Partners in Flight initiative. Millions of hectares of land on hundreds of military installations throughout the Western Hemisphere provide neotropical migratory birds with breeding, stopover and feeding areas. Some of the most valuable and important land for neotropical migratory birds is found on DoD land holdings along the West Bank of the Panama Canal.

The process of identification of habitats, and the evaluation and inventory of flora and fauna of DoD lands in the Panama Canal area began in 1992 by Asociación Nacional para la Conservación de la Naturaleza (ANCON) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) as part of a project funded by the DoD Legacy Natural Resource Management Program. In 1994, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), in conjunction with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and Illinois Natural History Survey, initiated a long-term monitoring

program for migratory and resident bird populations, also funded by the DoD Legacy Program (Angehr et al. 1996). These Legacy projects have provided much of the information used to generate this report.

In this report, we refer to the three areas under discussion as the Atlantic Ecological Zone, the Mid Canal Ecological Zone, and the Pacific Ecological Zone . The term “zone” herein is an ecological term, “an area characterized by distinct physical conditions and populated by communities of certain kinds of organisms” (Morris 1973), and should not be confused with the “zone” of the Former Canal Zone. These zones are located along the West Bank of the Panama Canal. At present, the West Bank is composed of a combination of reverted lands, DoD bases, and Canal operating areas, and the Republic of Panama has not yet decided on the long-term use of these areas. The Atlantic Ecological

Zone includes the area northwest of Gatun Lake on the Atlantic slope (Fort Sherman, Piña Range), the Mid Canal Ecological Zone includes the Gatun watershed south of the lake (Balboa West Range, Empire Range), and the Pacific Ecological Zone includes the area south of the continental divide to the Pacific Ocean (U.S. Ammunition Depot, Howard Air Force Base, Rodman Naval Station, Fort Kobbe).


SUMMARY

The undeveloped lands along the West Bank of the Panama Canal are unique and valuable natural and cultural resources for the western hemisphere and for Panama for a variety of reasons, including:

1. providing a biological link between North and South America for neotropical migratory birds;

2. maintaining biodiversity, especially its extremely rich resident and migratory bird populations;

3. preserving water quality and erosion control for the Canal watershed; and

4. developing significant and sustainable revenues from ecotourism, scientific research, non-timber forest products, biodiversity prospecting, reforestation, and carbon sequestration.

To manage these zones to achieve all of these potential uses, it is important to consider that the ecological and economic values of these forests are enhanced when forests are maintained in the largest blocks possible, and isolation of forest tracts from

one another by roads, agricultural fields, etc. is minimized. Although the entire continuum from wet Atlantic forests to drier Pacific forests are important in maintaining biodiversity, the two extremes are the most critical for biodiversity within this region. Wet forests support high biodiversity and many endemic species. Dry forests in the area include some of the last remaining tracts of that habitat in all of Central America and represent a unique biological community type that is severely threatened regionally.

Reduction and fragmentation of forests on the Canal’s West Bank could degrade seriously the ecological value of those forests for wildlife. Responsible management of these forests would include retaining the largest tracts possible, with minimal isolation of those tracts from one another.

Implementation of these ideas will promote healthy populations of migratory and resident bird populations as well as other fauna and flora.

Documento completo puede ser bajado en el siguiente vínculo: http://www.dodpif.org/data/keylands.pdf

Fuente: Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Environmental Security)

and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. 28 May 1996.

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