World Land Trust (WLT) continues to prioritise the protection of mangroves and inundated forests on the Guatemalan coast by funding the purchase of Tapon Creek Reserve.
The purchase was arranged by WLT’s Guatemalan project partner Fundación para el Ecodesarrollo y la Conservación (FUNDAECO).
FUNDAECO will own and manage the land as part of its network of reserves across Guatemala. FUNDAECO has also registered the reserve as a Private Natural Reserve within the national system of protected areas.
Tapon Creek lies within the designated Río Sarstún Multiple Use Area. Spanning almost 87,000 acres (35,200 hectares), the protected area is co-managed by an indigenous community organisation, Amantes de la Naturaleza Association in consortium with FUNDAECO.
In total Tapon Creek Reserve covers 1,674 acres (677 hectares), of which WLT has funded the purchase of 816 acres (330 hectares). This is the second reserve that WLT has helped create in the area: in 2009 WLT donated funds to help FUNDAECO create Laguna Grande-Sarstún Reserve. Both Tapon Creek and Laguna Grande are shown on the map below.
Tapon Creek’s purchase was supported by American Bird Conservancy (ABC).
The range of species recorded in the Río Sarstún Multiple Use Area reflects the biological importance of the habitats within the reserve. At least 52 species of mammals have been reported, including West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus) which is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
The area also protects Baird’s Tapir (Tapirus bairdii) and Yucatán Black Howler Monkey (Alouatta pigra), both classified as Endangered, and Jaguar (Panthera onca), classified as Near Threatened. In addition, Río Sarstún is particularly important for bat diversity, with more than 30 species recorded.
More than 100 species of migratory birds visit Guatemala’s Caribbean forests during the northern hemisphere winter, 19 of which are in decline in North America. Research suggests that habitat loss and degradation in wintering habitats is causing diminished survival rates and/or physical condition of these species. This makes habitat conservation in the Caribbean region of Guatemala all the more important if population declines of neotropical migratory birds is to be halted.
Lowland and inundated forests have a unique ecological role and importance for biodiversity as they link ecological niches across the region. Without them, Guatemala’s protected areas would be little more than ‘biological islands’ – the protected mountaintops where most of the region’s protected areas have been declared.
By saving a threatened remnant of tropical rainforest within the Caribbean portion of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, the purchase and protection of Tapon Creek is also strategically important within the wider Central American landscape.
Threats facing Tapon Creek
Tropical rainforests in the Caribbean region of Guatemala have almost disappeared, with less than 30 per cent of their original surface still remaining. The rest of the rainforest is being replaced by agro-industrial plantations (Banana, Oil Palm), cattle ranches and annual agricultural crops.
Prior to FUNDAECO taking ownership, Tapon Creek’s western side was affected by illegal commercial loggers. Hunting related to illegal logging activities also affected the site. However, now that the site is protected, wildlife is returning.
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