PS 56-159
Identification of deforested riparian corridors in Panamá's Azuero Peninsula as priority areas for reforestation efforts

Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Exhibit Hall, Baltimore Convention Center
Orion H. Morton, Environmental Studies, New College of Florida, Sarasota, FL
T. Trevor Caughlin, School of Forest Resources & Conservation, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Gabriella M. Frankhouser, Environmental Studies, New College of Florida, Sarasota, FL
Sarah Graves, School of Forest Resources & Conservation, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Stephanie A. Bolhman, School of Forest Resources & Conservation, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL

Native secondary forest regrowth in degraded tropical landscapes is critical for biodiversity

conservation, carbon sequestration and ecosystem services. Reforestation over a large spatial

extent will be necessary to counteract tropical deforestation rates of millions of hectares per year.

Landscape-scale reforestation will require prioritization of sites for active restoration. Riparian

corridors are one type of site where reforestation is likely to have high dividends for ecosystem

services, including watershed protection and biodiversity; riparian corridors are often

particularly important as ecological links in fragmented landscapes. Thus, in landscapes where

forest restoration is a conservation priority, identifying riparian corridors that are not forested

could enable prioritization of reforestation efforts. We used a GIS framework to identify riparian

sites which currently lack tree cover in Panama’s Azuero Peninsula: a region with highly

fragmented Mesoamerican tropical dry forest and an endangered ecosystem with high conservation

value. We combined a recent forest cover map, produced using dry-season Landsat images, with

spatial data on the location of rivers and streams. Using a mask procedure, we identified riparian

areas without forest cover and determined the area and spatial distribution of these priority

reforestation sites. We then overlaid these priority areas on a cadastral dataset with property

boundaries in order to determine whether the distribution of priority areas is evenly distributed

between landowners or if there are particular properties that could be targeted to increase riparian

forest cover.


We identified a substantial number of priority sites for riparian restoration in the Azuero

Peninsula. Riparian sites without current forest cover tended to be highly clustered in space,

rather than evenly distributed throughout the landscape. We also found high variation in priority

reforestation area between parcels. Together, these results can inform landscape management

plans by providing information on what areas to target for reforestation and by supporting

communication and collaboration with landowners as a strategy for forest landscape restoration.

We suggest that future conservation efforts focus on increasing riparian efforts should focus on

landowner decision making. The reestablishment of continuously forested riparian areas has

ecological significance in promoting reforestation, stabilizing riverbanks, improving water

quality, and in providing unbroken forest patches in which wildlife can move. Spatially-targeted

interventions, beginning with identifying priority areas for reforestation, can promote riparian