Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Smithsonian Coral Biodiversity Survey Of Panama's Pearl Islands

Date:
July 10, 2008
Source:
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Summary:
A comprehensive survey of coral biodiversity in Panama's Las Perlas Archipelago has resulted in clear conservation recommendations for a new coastal management plan.

Coral research in Las Perlas Islands, Panama.
Credit: Edgardo Ochoa, STRI

A comprehensive survey of coral biodiversity in Panama's Las Perlas Archipelago by researchers from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and their colleagues, has resulted in clear conservation recommendations for a new coastal management plan.

"To evaluate strategies for the protection of natural resources in the Las Perlas archipelago, we gathered basic information about coral species distributions. Our recommendations include large conservation units, "no take zones" and marine reserves, with an emphasis on the northern part of the archipelago, and extremely careful regulation of fishing, tourism and development," said Smithsonian staff scientist, Hector Guzman.

The Las Perlas Islands in the Gulf of Panama are one of two archipelagos in the Tropical Eastern Pacific. The other is the Galapagos. The Las Perlas Marine Special Management Zone, created under Panama's Law 18 in May 2007, is the most recent addition to a major regional marine conservation corridor extending from Costa Rica to Ecuador. The 1688-km2 management zone includes 250 mostly uninhabited rock islands and islets.

The authors conducted an extensive biodiversity inventory, determining coral distribution and species richness across the region. They counted a total of 57 coral species: 19 hard (scleractinian) corals and 38 soft corals (octocorals). For comparison, the species count for Panama's Pacific biodiversity hotspot in the Gulf of Chiriqui is 74, whereas near Caño Island Biological Reserve, Costa Rica's hot spot, there are 43 coral species.

Coral reefs in the Las Perlas archipelago tend to be small and patchy. Some corals also grow directly on bedrock, where they form communities, but not consolidated reefs. This study showed that reefs and coral communities in Las Perlas are equally diverse. The analysis defined areas of high species richness near Isla Galera, Isla San Telmo, Isla Camote, Isla Monte and Bajo Trollope in the southern part of the archipelago; the south and west coast of Isla San Jose; the southwest shore of Isla Pedro Gonzalez and around the northernmost islands, especially Isla Pacheca and Pachequilla. Isla Del Rey and areas near Isla Viveros and Isla Mina were low in species richness.

Live coral cover on reefs averaged 61.2%, ranging from 0.1 to 96.4%, whereas live cover in coral communities averaged 26%. Reef sites with the highest live coral cover are along the north and east shores of Isla Contadora and in the San Telmo Islands. The central archipelago tended to show low coral cover.

In the Las Perlas archipelago, coral cover and coral species richness do not go hand in hand. Extensive areas of coral can be low in species diversity, whereas smaller, patchy areas of coral can be higher. Patchy distribution of high coral biodiversity areas makes it challenging to specify discrete conservation areas, therefore the authors recommend larger conservation units. The central archipelago is less important both in terms of coral cover and coral species richness, while the islands from Isla Mogo Mogo north are more important.

Because coral communities in the archipelago tended to have higher species diversity and a higher proportion of soft corals (octocorals) than typical Pacific Panama reefs, the authors recommend that the management plan protect a significant proportion of the coral communities. Bajo Trollope, San Jose Island, the southern coast of Pedro Gonzales Island, and San Telmo, Galera, Mogo-Mogo and Pachequilla islands should be fully protected marine reserves.

Sedimentation, pollution, overfishing and coastal development have already been targeted as the most significant threats to marine biodiversity in Las Perlas. Developers plan to build entirely new towns with residential areas, malls, marinas and golf courses on several of the islands in this fragile ecosystem, which Guzman describes as "...lacking concern for the fragility of the archipelago and island ecosystem functions. Whatever you do to an island affects the others. It's a chain-reaction."

The Marine Special Management Zone regulates fisheries, but not tourism. It protects coral reefs and mangroves and creates a framework for participatory governance of the area but does not regulate land use, although several of the forested islands have protected areas or are designated as reserves.

The authors recommend further study of the connectivity--the movement of marine organism and their offspring along the coast--that may be extremely important to the health of protected areas across the Tropical Eastern Pacific region.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Guzman et al. Broadening reef protection across the Marine Conservation Corridor of the Eastern Tropical Pacific: distribution and diversity of reefs in Las Perlas Archipelago, Panama. Environmental Conservation, 2008; 35 (1): DOI: 10.1017/S0376892908004542

Cite This Page:

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. "Smithsonian Coral Biodiversity Survey Of Panama's Pearl Islands." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 July 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080707112641.htm>.
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. (2008, July 10). Smithsonian Coral Biodiversity Survey Of Panama's Pearl Islands. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080707112641.htm
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. "Smithsonian Coral Biodiversity Survey Of Panama's Pearl Islands." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080707112641.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

AP (July 31, 2014) — Seacrest Wolf Preserve on the northern Florida panhandle allows more than 10,000 visitors each year to get up close and personal with Arctic and British Columbian Wolves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers

Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers

AP (July 31, 2014) — With Florida's panther population rebounding, some ranchers complain the protected predators are once again killing their calves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Big Waves In Arctic Ocean Threaten Polar Ice

Big Waves In Arctic Ocean Threaten Polar Ice

Newsy (July 30, 2014) — Big waves in parts of the Arctic Ocean are unprecedented, mainly because they used to be covered in ice. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) — Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:  

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile iPhone Android Web
    Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins