Introduction to the Maya Project Introduction to The Selva Maya Principal Agents of Tropical Deforestation The Maya Project Components - Activities and Results


Description and Results

The following account of our research activities follows the outline given. For each topic, we describe the associated conservation challenges, give some background knowledge on the topic, describe our research activities, and give a brief synopsis of our results.

7. Monitoring the Ecological Integrity of Tropical Forest Protected Areas

Our ecological monitoring plan for 
the Maya Biosphere Reserve; click 
here to download the PDF file of this 
report in English or in Spanish.

Simply designating and patrolling a protected area does not insure that effective conservation takes place therein. One must study the biota of a protected area over time in order to evaluate the success of conservation efforts. Also, in many cases it is desirable to conduct baseline inventories in order to document the species present and other features of biodiversity within a protected area or other area of concern.

By the same token, global ecological change is the norm rather than the exception, especially today, as a result of widespread human impacts on the planet. Thus there is a need to keep tabs on subtle ecological changes that may be occurring.

Watching for such ecological changes and trends over time is the realm of ecological monitoring. Ecological monitoring is a rapidly-developing science, and it is not known how best to conduct such monitoring in tropical forests. We directed a substantial amount of effort toward the development of a rationale and specific methods for biotic inventory and monitoring in Neotropical forests.

Our efforts were of two sorts. First, we conducted base-line raptor and songbird population estimates in many permanently-located study plots, allowing for continued monitoring over time (see below). Second, we contributed to efforts to design an ecological monitoring plan for the Maya Biosphere Reserve and the trinational Selva Maya region.

Songbird and Raptor Inventory and Monitoring

We conducted a large series of raptor point counts on 64 point count sites in four protected "core areas" within the Maya and Calakmul Biosphere Reserves of Guatemala and M�xico. We gathered baseline data on raptor species composition and abundance patterns at these sites. These point count sites, which are permanently located via GPS points, hold the potential for follow-up sampling in the future, in order to test for possible changes in the raptor community over time. Each count site was a 1 km2 plot, and structural vegetation data were taken along a 1 km transect forming the midline of each of these wedge-shaped plots.

Protected areas sampled were Tikal National Park (16 points in two mature forest types, and eight points in the farming landscape nearby); Biotopo Zotz just west of Tikal (10 points in mature forest); Biotopo Dos Lagunas (10 points in mature forest); and Calakmul Biosphere Reserve in Campeche, M�xico (10 points in mature forest).

Click here for pdf format report

Our 26-page report--The State of  the 
Maya Biosphere Reserve  in 1996
-- pdf format in Spanish Only (large file).

To sample the non-raptorial bird community, we also conducted a large amount of sampling using both point counts and standard-effort mist-netting, in a variety of mature forest types and all ages of second-growth forest we could find near Tikal. We sampled second-growth ranging in age from one or two years to 30 years in age. These efforts allowed us to define patterns of habitat association of 90 bird species at Tikal, and, if repeated over time, may allow evaluation of changes in the bird community over time.

A Monitoring Plan for the Maya Biosphere Reserve and Maya Forest Region

Upon request from the U.S. Agency for International Development, we designed an ecological monitoring plan for the Maya Biosphere Reserve. This plan is presented here in its entirety in PDF format (this is a very large pdf file and downloading it should only be attempted with a fast connection speed).

In addition, we have participated in subsequent multi-national efforts to devise and put in place a monitoring program for the trinational Selva Maya region (Whitacre and Miller 1999).

Literature Cited, Monitoring the Ecological Integrity of Tropical Forest Protected Areas



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Last Revised:  12/10/08