Reforesting in Azuero

The rainy season has begun in Azuero and with that, so has our reforestation season. This year 2018 between the months of July and August we have reforested 6 farms..

Fig. 1. day of reforestation of a farm in the surrounding areas of Venao with Soyuz Bilingual School, on August 17th.

 

Fig. 2. The image shows a Guanabana plant (Annona Muricata), which has been planted during the reforestation day in Nuario, 28 th august.
The reforestations

At the Azuero Earth Project, we specifically seek out hard-to-access areas for our reforestation projects, reforesting on steep slopes and marginal lands distant from roads and close to streams. These areas are often unsuitable for other uses but are very important for protecting watersheds and wildlife. Starting from as early as 7 am until 1 pm, many of the reforestations were undertaken under difficult conditions such as difficult access both regarding distance and significant obstacles, heavy rains, slippery ground, slopes and streams. These were some of the few challenges we encountered during this gratifying task for the preservation of the forest of the peninsula of Azuero.

 

 

 

 

 

The results

Until this moment in 2018, we have planted approx. 1644 seedlings in the areas of Nuario, Venao and Bajo Corral. In doing so, we have benefitted 6 farmers in the area, preserved the ecosystems of unique species in Azuero like the spider monkey of Azuero (Ateles geoffroyi azuerensis), conserved the river basins, mitigated climate change, ensured productive sustainability, and diversified the production of the farms in the future with delicious fruits and other products stemming from the trees.

 

 

Fig. 3. Ruth Metzel supports a young student of the CADI Bilingual Academy in the shadow of a tree during the reforestation day in Nuario, 17 th august.
Our support

All of the reforestations were only possible thanks to the effort and the enthusiasm of diverse entities and institutions such as: Soyuz Bilingual School, Colegio María Manuel Tejada Roca, C.A.D.I Bilingual Academy, Peace Corps Panama ( Cuerpo de Paz ), MEDUCA Herrera, ATP, Colegio Plinio Moscoso, the municipality of Pedasí, Restaurant La Maestra, U.P.M.A. Tonosí, Manada de Capitanes Las Minas, volunteers and the communities of each of the different areas we have reforested. We thank Prince Bernhard Nature Fund, Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and American Forests for their financial support of this project.

 

   ¿Are you interested in reforesting?
Fig. 4. The plant nursery coordinator, Jairo Batista, and reforester Edgar Medina transport seedlings to a reforestation site close to Venao, 25 th July.

If you want to learn more about the work of the Ecological Project Azuero you can follow us by searching for @proecoazuero in Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For any consultation: 995-2995, or info@proecoazuero.org. If you want to support our reforestation program you can contact us, visit our office in Pedasí or you can follow this link to make a donation: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/support-riparian-reforestation-with-azuero-farmers/

 

Fig. 5. Participants in a reforestation day in La Miel organized by the Peace Corps, 28th July.

AEP and University of Maryland Agree to Collaborate on Spider Monkey Research Project

In July, the Azuero Earth Project gained a new ally in the fight to protect the critically endangered Azuero spider monkey.

In a memorandum of understanding signed on July 5, the AEP and the Fagan Laboratory at the University of Maryland officially launched a collaborative effort to improve understanding of the ranging behaviors of Ateles geoffroyi azuerensis, a subspecies of the Central American spider monkey that lives only in the Azuero peninsula.

 The Azuero spider monkey is considered critically endangered, with as few as 145 individuals remaining in the wild, and very little is known about its behavorial tendencies. To fill in the gaps, researchers from the Bill Fagan Lab at the University of Maryland will use GPS collars to track the monkeys in the Azuero.

The Azuero spider monkey c. Natalia Reagan

Over the course of the two-year long study, researchers hope to gain a better understanding of how the animals interact with one another and with their environment, especially focusing on how the monkeys have changed their behaviors in response to deforestation of their dry forest habitat.

 Using data collected from the tracking collars and GIS maps developed by the AEP, researchers will be able to better determine where the monkeys live, what they eat, and how they travel from place to place.

Once the data has been collected, AEP and University of Maryland researchers hope to engage other key actors in the region in order to develop strategies for protecting the spider monkeys and promoting their survival as a species.

Using both land cover maps developed by the AEP and field data, researchers will also work to determine which tree species are most important in providing food and habitat for the spider monkeys. The information will be then put to use as part of the AEP’s ongoing effort to create a biological forest corridor that connects spider monkey habitats in different parts of the Azuero using tree species appropriate for the social and dietary habits of the Azuero spider monkey.

Find out more about the Bill Fagan Lab here.

 

University of Florida Student Conducts Tree Mapping Study in Azuero

To estimate the quantity of carbon contained in these landscapes, the team measures the diameter and height of every tree mapped in the study. Here Diogenes and Luis measure a very large Panama tree (Sterculia apetala). c. Sarah Graves

In June and July 2013, Sarah Graves from the University of Florida conducted field research to create a tree cover map of the Azuero Peninsula as part of her Master´s study entitled “Remnant tree communities in dry tropical agricultural landscapes: Use of aerial and satellite imagery for species identification, biomass estimation, and forest cover mapping”.

The goal of the study is to quantify the tree cover of degraded tropical dry and moist forests, tree species diversity and carbon stocks. This research will inform the ecological role of the dispersed tree community and can be directly used in conservation and reforestation initiatives to protect natural ecosystems. Her study is in collaboration with advisor Dr. Stephanie Bohlman in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation, with field research partially funded by the Tropical Conservation and Development program at U Florida. 

Luis measures the diameter of a tree on a hill overlooking a recently plowed rice field. Diameter and height measurements are used to estimate the quantity of carbon contained in the trees of the Azuero landscape. c. Sarah Graves

University of Panama undergraduate Lesly Oderay Candelaria, AEP staff member Jairo Batista, Diogenes Ibarra and Luis Mensilla formed the team that collaborated with Sarah in the fieldwork for this study. During the course of the fieldwork, Sarah and her team focused specifically on the region of Venao and Oria Arriba in Los Santos, visiting designated farms to locate, identify, and count tree crowns in their sample area. They also measured diameter and height to calculate biomass. Overall, they mapped over 60 tree species and over 1,500 individual tree crowns.

These field data will be combined with high-resolution aerial imagery to develop a computer model that can map tree species distribution and help understand the tree diversity throughout the area. Aerial imagery was provided by the Carnegie Airborne Observatory at Stanford University. Sarah anticipates that image analysis and results from this study will be complete by June 2014.

Accessing properties far from the main road requires a more Panamanian type of transportation. Sarah rides a horse rented from a nearby landowner to cross the Oria River and access a remote farm. c. Sarah Graves

This study provides invaluable information on Azuero tree diversity and helps to inform the Azuero Earth Project’s efforts to support reforestation of the tropical dry forest in the region. Sarah mentioned that, “from conversations with landowners, it is clear that farmers understand issues such as deforestation and climate change and are receptive to programs to increase local tree diversity”. AEP thanks Sarah Graves and Dr. Bohlman for the opportunity to collaborate on this important project.

To learn more about Sarah Graves, see the Collaborators page. To learn more about native tree species, check out AEP’s tree database.

Written by Sophie M. Fuchs

AEP Delivers Azuero Map Puzzles to Local Schools

Student making her Azuero map puzzle, c. Ruth Metzel

On June 11 and 12, 2013, the Azuero Earth Project delivered puzzles to participating schools in its Annual Spider Monkey Educational Initiative in honor of Natural Resource Month and their participation in AEP’s annual initiative to conserve the Azuero Spider Monkey and its tropical dry forest habitat.

The Azuero Earth Project puzzle contains a map of the Azuero peninsula made by Guillermo Duran with data from AEP’s GIS Database of Conservation Priorities and AEP’s design team that shows students how their communities relate geographically to the peninsula’s major population centers and important protected areas.

AEP staff members Carmela Luciano and Ruth Metzel with students completing their puzzles, c. Ruth Metzel

Through working with the puzzles, students will learn to identify, value and protect the natural wonders that are found in their local protected areas and to develop the geographical understanding of the Azuero peninsula. Carmela Luciano, Ruth Metzel and Hannah Metzel of the Azuero Earth Project team helped teachers and students to put together their puzzles in celebration of their future use as a teaching tool in participating schools!

Azuero Peninsula Map Puzzle, c. Guillermo Duran

Meet AEP’s Newest Collaborators!

AEP´s new collaborators: Ashley Stonecipher, Sarah Graves, Lesly Oderay Candelaria, Hannah Metzel, Sabina Roan, and Victor Tran (from top left to bottom right), c. photo subjects

The Azuero Earth Project welcomes several new collaborators to the office in Pedasí who will be conducting research and projects related to environmental conservation and sustainable development. They are eager to meet the Pedasí community and to explore the Azuero Peninsula through their projects!

Ashley Stonecipher, Pedasí School Gardens Consultant, Peace Corps

Ashley is working with the Pedasí school, Instituto Plinio A. Moscoso, to develop an organic garden with the school´s students and faculty. Ashley comes to AEP having recently completed 2 ½ years in Peace Corps Paraguay working on sustainable agriculture with local farmers and women and teaching about the importance of organic gardening. Ashley received her undergraduate degree in Environmental Horticulture with a specialization in Public Garden Management and a MS in Business Management and a MA in International Business at the University of Florida.

Sarah Graves, University of Florida Field Research Team

Sarah is conducting research to quantify the species diversity and carbon content of the dispersed trees throughout cattle pastures using high-resolution hyper-spectral aerial imagery and LiDAR data. Sarah is earning her Master of Science in Forest Resources and Conservation at UF, advised by Dr. Stephanie Bohlman. She graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Environmental Science. Sarah then attended the University of Wisconsin to earn a professional certificate in geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing.

Lesly Oderay Candelaria, University of Florida Field Research Team

As a part of her professional internship through the University of Panama in Penonomé, Lesly forms part of the University of Florida field investigation team that seeks to quantify the species diversity and carbon content of the dispersed trees throughout cattle pastures using high-resolution hyper-spectral aerial imagery and LiDAR data. Lesly is in the fourth year of her undergraduate degree in Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Panama in Penonomé.

Hannah Metzel, Environmental Education Intern

Hannah is collaborating with AEP to develop the curriculum for the Pro-Eco Pela´os program. She is double majoring in Environmental Studies and Government at Connecticut College. Through volunteering at the West Hill Park in her hometown and taking several courses in Environmental Science, she has developed an interest in the transformation from fossil fuels to renewable resources. After Connecticut College Hannah plans to attend law school and pursue a career in Environmental Law.

Sabina Roan, GIS Mapping Intern

Sabina is focusing on adding to and updating AEP´s GIS database, as well as participating in AEP´s recycling and the Pro-Eco Pela´os programs and the local turtle monitoring group. Sabina just completed a bachelor degree in Geography with a concentration in Urban Systems at McGill University in Montréal, Canada. Her minors were in Geographic Information Systems and Environment.

Victor Tran, Organiculture Intern

Victor is collaborating with AEP´s Organiculture program to research natural pest management systems and to help out in the experimental organic garden. Victor is visiting from the AEP from Montreal, QC in Canada where he studies Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at McGill University. He comes as a first time traveller to Panama. While not spending time in the gardens, he hopes to learn more about the Panamanian lifestyle by interacting with people in the community, and visiting local farmers in the region.

To learn about about these new collaborators, visit the Collaborators page.

AEP Collaborates with Peace Corps at Environmental Leadership Seminar

Environmental leadership seminar participants in Reserva Forestal el Montoso, c. Ina Hysi

AEP’s Eco-Guide Editor Leo Mena gave a presentation to a group of students and property owners attending the Environmental Leadership Seminar on February 20, 2013. The Environmental Leadership seminar was planned and organized by Natalie Petrucci, a Peace Corps volunteer in El Cedro de las Minas and was developed using materials developed by Peace Corps Panamá with funding from the community of El Cedro, Autoridad National del Ambiente (ANAM), and a USAID small project assistance grant. AEP’s presentation at the seminar highlighted the extent of deforestation using the Azuero map created through the use of geographic information system (GIS) software by AEP staff member Guillermo Duran. AEP provided a map of the community and led the participants of the seminar in a dialogue to visualize and discuss the effect of deforestation in El Cedro.

Participants of the seminar commented that they were shocked to see the lack of forest in El Cedro, especially along the edges of Rio La Villa, an important river that provides water to many parts of the Azuero peninsula including the cities of La Villa and Chitré. Using this map, El Cedro residents were able to identify parts of the community that they felt most needed to be reforested. The participants of the Environmental Leadership Seminar are motivated to reforest areas around their community of El Cedro. In the seminar, group members emphasized their goals to reforest around the streams of the La Villa river watershed and on the main road so that people in El Cedro can see the value of trees.

For more information on reforestation on the Azuero Peninsula, visit AEP’s Guest Experts page on a reforestation seminar held in April 2013. For more information about reforestation in general, visit AEP’s Resource Center online or at the AEP office in Pedasí, Los Santos, Panamá. AEP now offers an online tool for planting trees native to the Azuero Peninsula. Check out the AEP Plant Database for more information.

 

AEP Presents to ELTI on the Creation of a Biological Corridor

Map of AEP proposed biological corridor, c. Guillermo Duran

On January 31, AEP Director of Programs Ruth Metzel presented to an Environmental Leadership Training Initiative (ELTI) seminar on AEP´s use of geographic information systems (GIS) to create a wildlife habitat corridor in Los Santos. The presentation, titled “The Creation of a Conservation Corridor in Azuero”, explained AEP’s project to find a route to connect the dry forest in Los Santos where the endemic subspecies, the Azuero spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi azurensis) is known to live. AEP created the potential route using biophysical and socioeconomic variables to select the properties optimal for inclusion in this biological corridor. The final route is 80 kilometers long, stretching from Cerro Hoya National Park to the Achotines Forest. This information will help to inform AEP’s programs to conserve the Azuero dry forest and to protect the native habitat of the spider monkey and other species that live on the Azuero Peninsula.

This presentation formed only part of ELTI’s seminar, titled ¨Environmental Services and Rainforest Restoration¨, that focused on training professionals and technical experts basic techniques for conservation and restoration projects through presentations, discussions and fieldwork. The course took place from January 28 to February 2 at the Achotines Laboratory to give participants the opportunity to explore the local dry forest on the Azuero Peninsula.

Course Objectives*:

1. Understand the fundamentals affecting the ecological functioning of forests, land use planning and the provision of environmental services in tropical regions.

2. Analyze the causes and consequences of environmental degradation have on natural regeneration and restoration of tropical forest to local and regional scale.

3. Recognize the different strategies, tools and technologies available to guide decision-making in land and forest landscape restoration.

4. Learn techniques to evaluate the properties of the tropical forest ecosystem and the progress of the restoration and management strategies, at both local and landscape.

*Taken from ELTI “Course Summary” document

The Environmental Leadership Training Initiative (ELTI) is a joint program through the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) to provide individuals with the tools to conserve tropical forests in Latin America and Asia.

View the Powerpoint presentation ¨Creation of a Conservation Corridor in Azuero¨ (in Spanish)

Written by Sophie M. Fuchs

AEP Announces Regional Map of Azuero

The Azuero Earth Project is proud to announce that the AEP Regional Map of Azuero is now available! This comprehensive, bilingual map includes extraordinary detail of the Peninsula including local roads, protected areas, and points of interest.

The map was created using data collected through the AEP Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Mapping Initiative which has partnered with scientists, students, and volunteers to create an immense database of ecological and sociological information specific to the Azuero Peninsula.

This truly is the Azuero map for every need – from planning an Azuero vacation, to finding the nearest hospital, recycling center, gas station, and tree nursery, to teaching local children about the value of their surroundings. Our unique map makes the perfect souvenir to remember the breathtaking beaches, abundant sea life, rolling hills, farmland, forests, and picturesque towns of Azuero.

To purchase the map, contact us, come to our office in Pedasi, or purchase it at locations listed on website.

Special thanks go to Guillermo Duran, AEP GIS Administrator and the designers at Topos Graphics for their work on this project.

Coming soon! Visit us again to access the map electronically on our website.

Knowing Azuero through Maps

A map showing connectivity between forest patches in Azuero

 

On Saturday afternoon, the 21st of January, Guillermo Duran, AEP GIS Administrator gave a presentation entitled “Knowing Azuero through Maps” as part of the AEP monthly lecture series. The lecture demonstrated what the AEP Mapping Initiative has accomplished in the past year and discussed the kinds of in-depth information that has been gathered about many aspects of peninsular life and its ecosystem.

 

The event was attended by a mix of young people, local Pedasi residents, farmers, scientists, and friends of the Azuero Earth Project who came to learn about the program and get a glimpse of its GIS database of conservation priorities.  This comprehensive, digital database paints a vivid picture of how land is being used across the peninsula and contains a total of 143 layers of information including climate, infrastructure, natural geography, social information, environmental risks, such as garbage disposal, and species sightings. In the presentation, Guillermo showed how the database can be used to visualize details such as forest regeneration over specific time periods.

 

“The benefit of these lectures is that we can let the community know what we are doing and what tools we have available. The challenge is presenting the information for a wide-ranging audience to find the balance between explaining basic concepts and the more technical aspects,” said Guillermo following the event.  He explained what sources were used to create the database and what kinds of maps the database can generate. The audience was eager to ask questions about the availability of the data as well as about the satellite and aerial imagery which the program utilizes. Local producers and researchers were particularly interested in learning about the program and how GIS can be used a tool for conversation, research, and many other relevant purposes.

 

AEP recently produced a Regional Map of Azuero, which is now available for purchase in the area and demonstrates just some of what the GIS program can do.

 

To view the complete presentation from this event, click here.

GIS Corps Volunteers help AEP digitize streams of Azuero

Josh Garver’s presentation on AEP-GISCorps Streams Digitization Project

After months of collaboration with Guillermo Duran, AEP’s GIS Administrator, GISCORPS volunteers Josh Garver of Franklin County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) in Ohio, and Emily Cheadle of the town of Babylon Department of Planning and Development in New York have digitized the streams of Azuero!

 

The streams network created by GISCORPS volunteers will form a key part of the Azuero Earth Project’s database of conservation priorities because most of the small and isolated forest patches in the Azuero landscape are in the riparian zones adjacent to creeks and rivers on the peninsula.

 

The Azuero Earth Project’s goals of creating habitat for wildlife and increasing habitat connectivity on the peninsula are supported by the data contributed by Emily and Josh through their GISCORPS volunteer service. Riparian forest areas are some of the last remaining habitat for the critically endangered Azuero Spider Monkey, a subspecies endemic to the peninsula. With the streams layer and a forest cover dataset that AEP is currently working on, it will be possible to identify the streams that have been most affected by deforestation, and in this way focus efforts to work with landowners who have the most degraded lands or whose lands form critical linkages for habitat connectivity.

 

The work Emily and Josh performed with GISCORPS will serve as a resource layer that will allow visiting students and researchers to build upon their work to further study the ecology and environmental issues on the peninsula.

 

For more information about the GIS project , contact  Guillermo Duran at Guillermo@azueroearthproject.org.