PE&RS September 2014 - page 820

September 2014
Coto Brus county near the Las Cruces Biological Station and
the Cordillera de Talamanca, in the La Amistad International
Park (PILA). The landscape in Coto Brus county is typical
of much of Central America in that it consists of a highly
fragmented mosaic of agricultural land uses and remnant
forest (Cole et al. 2010) (Figure 3). Such multi-use landscapes
play a critical role in conserving biodiversity outside the
protected areas such as national parks (Daily et al. 2001). The
PILA, our second area of focus, is 401,000 ha region protecting
the largest remaining contiguous tropical forest in Central
America. The PILA includes the highest and wildest non-
volcanic peaks on the isthmus, the Cordillera de Talamanca,
which run across the spine of southern Costa Rica and northern
Panama. The range rise from near sea level to over 3,800m
and provides habitat for an extraordinary wealth of flora and
fauna including many endangered and endemic species. It has
been suggested that the PILA contains some of the highest
species diversity of any protected areas of equivalent size on
the planet (UNESCO 1990). The park has been designated
as a Biosphere Reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Despite its importance for conservation, it remains one of the
least explored and unstudied regions in Central America.
In collaboration with PILA administration and conservation
organizations in Coto Brus county, we selected five types of
environmental data to collect along our route. These included:
1. Vegetationparameters
we took measurements
of vegetation and ground
cover at over 100 ground
control points spaced at
~500m intervals across the
2. Soil Carbon and Ni-
soil samples at each of
60 ground control points
on the Atlantic slope of
the PILA (Figure 4) to be
analyzed at the Center
for Stable Isotope Biogeo-
chemistry, University of
California at Berkeley.
3. Acoustic data
—Song Me-
ter SM2+ recording equip-
ment was used to record
acoustic data at set times
of day and night. The re-
cordings are used to deter-
mine the species, mainly
birds and frogs, which are
present at different loca-
tions as well as in the interiors and edges of remnant
4. Black carbon in water
—we filtered water samples at
different points along the watersheds in the PILA to ex-
amine the types of sediments being transported down-
stream. Significant levels of black carbon (soot or char-
coal) leaching from the soil can be an indication of past
wild fires. These data can provide useful information re-
garding the history of disturbance in watersheds as well
as the mineralogy of other particles transported by the
5. Road kill of native animals
—in collaboration with
PILA research staff, we collected data on road-related
mortality of wildlife along the lowland sections of our
route near the coasts to help quantify incidence and
locations of road kills in order to facilitate wildlife
management and biodiversity protection.
All of these data are being related to environmental variables
derived from RS data. This allows us to generate information
on vegetation structure across elevation gradients and give
us information on factors driving patterns of soil nutrients at
broad scales (Figure 5). The acoustic data will be related to RS
data of forest structure and forest cover in the surrounding
Figure 4: Soil collecting
during the transect.
Figure 5: Elevation, slope, aspect, and NDVI maps for the study re-
gion in PILA. These were derived from the NASA SRTM DEM and
from Landsat 8 imagery. Finding cloud-free imagery for this study
area proved impossible and clouds have been masked out in the
NDVI image.
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