Panama is a country on the isthmus which links Central and South America. Panama City is the capital as well as the largest city in the country. It is a unitary presidential state with a population of 3,929,141 and a population density of 118.9 people per square mile. The Mestizo people (65%) comprise the dominant ethnic group in the country. Others include the Native Pan (12.35), Afro-Panam (9.2%), Mulatto (6.8%), and White (6.7%) ethnic groups. Panama experiences a tropical climate with high temperatures. The ecological regions are determined more by rainfall than on temperatures since the rainfall varies regionally. From region to region, the highest average rainfall is 3,000 millimeters, while the lowest is 1,300 millimeters. This article looks at some of the notable ecological regions in the country.
Ecological zones of Panama
Bocas Del Toro-San Bastimento-San Blas Mangroves
The Bocas Del Toro-San Bastimento-San Blas mangroves is a neo-tropical ecoregion that includes all of the mangrove habitat blocks on the Caribbean Sea coasts of Panama and Southern Costa Rica. The area experiences a high level of rainfall up to 2,000 to 4,000 millimeters, with some years recording up to 6,000 millimeters annually. The red mangroves and the white mangroves are the dominant species of mangroves in the region. These mangroves are crucial habitat for the palustrine and marine birds with a total of over 130 species. 36 of the species are endangered both locally and globally. 55 species of mammals are also found here with 24 of them being endangered, seven endangered reptile species and twenty amphibian species are found in the ecoregion. Current concerns within the ecoregion are the expansion of agricultural land as well as hunting of birds and small mammals which are mostly endangered. Two rivers in the ecoregion, then Rio Changuinola and the Rio Teribe have a potential to produce hydroelectric power than any other river in the country. However, any slight alteration to the flow of the rivers in the region will adversely affect the species distribution and even cause the mangrove vegetation to dry off.
This freshwater ecoregion is found along the Caribbean coast with the drainage from its rivers flowing into the Caribbean Ocean. The major rivers in this region include the Rio Chagres, Rio Indio, and Cocle Del Norte. The other water bodies include man-made lakes in the Chagres basin and the Panama Canal that bisects the ecoregion. The area experiences a tropical climate with mean temperatures being above 18° Celsius and a long rainy period from May to November. The average precipitation is 2,800 millimeters annually. There are a few inland aquatic habitats in the region. The lakes in the region produce large amounts of methane from decaying vegetation. Historically, the lowland forests covered most of the region, but that has since changed, and only a few deciduous trees can be found in forests near the Atlantic coast. The freshwater bodies in Chagres are abundant with fish. Over 50 species of fish are found in the Chagres, with some of them being endemic to the area.
Eastern Panamanian Montane Forests.
The Eastern Panamanian Montane forests is a neo-tropical ecoregion found in the highlands of the eastern regions of Panama, and contains montane forests that grow at elevations of between 1,500 and 5,400 feet above sea level. It is on the land bridge between South and North America. The forests are complex and are home to high diversity and endemism. The largest national park in Central America is found in this area. The park is home to 24 species of fauna. The area is almost inaccessible due to the steepness of the slopes, and this has made the area intact. The forests experience high rainfalls with annual precipitation levels ranging from 2,500 to 5,000 millimeters. The significant elevation changes, climatic variations, and the location between the land bridge between North and South America, provide the region with rich biodiversity and endemism. The region has over 800 vertebrate species and with many birds being endemic.
Gulf of Panama Mangroves
The ecoregion is only 160 miles wide, and has an area of 930 square miles. The Gulf has a few other minor gulfs within itself. The area attracts a large number of tourists with the Pearl Islands being the popular attraction sites. The Gulf experiences a climate range of both extremes. January-April is extremely dry season while extremely wet conditions are experienced in May-December. Mangroves are an essential part of the ecosystem as they provide shelter and nutrients for the local birds. Over 20 species of birds have been documented in the region. The greatest concern in this area is oil spills and utilization of mangroves
Threats and Conservation Efforts
Panama is a popular tourist destination and, even though the country benefits from it, tourism has led to increased hunting of birds and reptiles found in these ecoregions. The changing climatic patterns affect the behavior of birds and plants. The World Wide Fund for Nature is leading the conservation efforts of the mangrove forest to help save the population of pandas.