In June and July 2013, Sarah Graves from the University of Florida conducted field research to create a tree cover map of the Azuero Peninsula as part of her Master´s study entitled “Remnant tree communities in dry tropical agricultural landscapes: Use of aerial and satellite imagery for species identification, biomass estimation, and forest cover mapping”.
The goal of the study is to quantify the tree cover of degraded tropical dry and moist forests, tree species diversity and carbon stocks. This research will inform the ecological role of the dispersed tree community and can be directly used in conservation and reforestation initiatives to protect natural ecosystems. Her study is in collaboration with advisor Dr. Stephanie Bohlman in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation, with field research partially funded by the Tropical Conservation and Development program at U Florida.
University of Panama undergraduate Lesly Oderay Candelaria, AEP staff member Jairo Batista, Diogenes Ibarra and Luis Mensilla formed the team that collaborated with Sarah in the fieldwork for this study. During the course of the fieldwork, Sarah and her team focused specifically on the region of Venao and Oria Arriba in Los Santos, visiting designated farms to locate, identify, and count tree crowns in their sample area. They also measured diameter and height to calculate biomass. Overall, they mapped over 60 tree species and over 1,500 individual tree crowns.
These field data will be combined with high-resolution aerial imagery to develop a computer model that can map tree species distribution and help understand the tree diversity throughout the area. Aerial imagery was provided by the Carnegie Airborne Observatory at Stanford University. Sarah anticipates that image analysis and results from this study will be complete by June 2014.
This study provides invaluable information on Azuero tree diversity and helps to inform the Azuero Earth Project’s efforts to support reforestation of the tropical dry forest in the region. Sarah mentioned that, “from conversations with landowners, it is clear that farmers understand issues such as deforestation and climate change and are receptive to programs to increase local tree diversity”. AEP thanks Sarah Graves and Dr. Bohlman for the opportunity to collaborate on this important project.
Written by Sophie M. Fuchs