Coral reef conservation through optical-chemical ecological assessment of Pacific Panamanian reef habitats

Luis Camilli

In 2002, an agreement to form an Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape (a.k.a. the “Pacific Biological Corridor”), was signed by the governments of Costa Rica, Panamá, Ecuador and Colombia with the aim of conservation and sustainable development of an area of 211 million marine hectares including the Galápagos, Gorgona, Malpelo, Cocos and Coiba Islands. The Coiba Island National Park, located in the Gulf of Chiriquí, Panamá with an estimated marine area of 270,125 hectares, was created in 1991 and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005. Rapid degradation of coral reefs in the Eastern Pacific was observed during the 1980’s and two regions on the Pacific coast of Panamá, the Gulf of Chiriquí and the Gulf of Montijo, were cited as “critical areas” highly vulnerable to anthropogenic disturbance and pollution. The aim of this research was to characterize the natural variability and understand human perturbations affecting those fringing reef systems which although biologically and geographically linked, are situated outside of the protective realm of the Parque Nacional de Coiba.