Isla Iguana: 20 Years of Research, Marcos Díaz

Marco L. Diaz, c. Sophie Fuchs

What do we know about Isla Iguana beyond the fact that it is a beautiful place to visit on holidays? Marine biologist Marco L. Diaz, who spent twenty years from 1987 to 2007 researching this paradise, presented his findings to the community at the Azuero Earth Project office on December 15.

Isla Iguana has experienced significant changes in vegetation and animal populations over time. Once the farm of Minsín Espino, Isla Iguana originally shared many of the same tree species as mainland Azuero and the Perlas islands. Today, however, its vegetation has been severely affected by human interference. “In the places where the rice fields exist, there is still no vegetation, perhaps because of the large quantities of agrochemicals used,” Marco explained. Isla Iguana was originally the peak of a mountain, transforming into an island as the sea level rose over 420 feet since the last Ice Age. Most recently, the landscape has changed as a result of several bombs detonated since their placement on the island in World War II. While the detonations’ full effects are not truly known, we do know that the bombs have exploded sections of the coral reef. The most recent bomb detonation was performed just a few weeks before Marco gave his AEP talk.

Although its terrestrial diversity is low because it is a small island with no fresh water, Isla Iguana is home to a vibrant coral reef. Today, the island is home to at least 240 species of fish, 20 species of birds, 11 species of reptiles, and 17 species of coral, including two species of coral yet to be identified. Isla Iguana gets its name from the iguana that makes its home on the island, the black iguana being the most common type seen by visitors.

For those who plan to enjoy Isla Iguana in the future, Marco reminds visitors to treat the island with respect. While you view wildlife and snorkel, please refrain from playing loud music, touching the coral, and drinking alcohol. Bring back all your trash and belongings when you leave. Keep all flora and fauna on the island to enjoy their natural habitat. If we follow a few basic rules, Isla Iguana will remain in good condition for generations to come.

Written by Sophie M. Fuchs

Resources from the presentation:

Marco’s presentation in Isla Iguana

Shorefishes page on the STRI site:

iTunes App:

Video recordings from presentation:

Marco´s Conference. Part 1 of 9: Original island vegetation. How Berthold Seeman described the island in 1847.

Marco´s Conference. Part 2 of 9: Current vegetation: Comparing original vegetation with vegetation today.

Marco´s Conference. Part 3 of 9: Fauna: Description of the plants and animals counted on our website.

Marco´s Conference. Part 4 of 9: Coral: Describing types of coral reefs on Isla Iguana and coral reefs mapped, presented to the public for the first time.

Marco´s Conference. Part 5 of 9: El Cirial Coral Reef: Describing coral reef zones; showing results of live cover on the platform (Marco´s data), compared with the slope and the base (STRI Dr. Guzmán´s data), both unedited, shown for the first time to the public; Describing results of the growth of a coral species, shown to the public for the first time.

Marco´s Conference. Part 6 of 9: Geology: Isla Iguana formed part of the mainland 20,000 years ago, during the last Ice Age; Use of a mathematical simulation combined with bathymetry around the island, showing how the sea level rose and transformed the island; Existence of a volcano that formed the island.

Marco´s Conference. Part 7 of 9: Visiting rules: How to behave when you visit the island.

Marco´s Conference. Part 8 of 9: Acknowledgements to those who contributed to this project that won the National Environmental Management Award in 2006.

Marco´s Conference. Part 9 of 9: Question and answer session.