The flyways of the Americas converge along the thin isthmus that connects the continents. Each year millions of migratory shorebirds fuel their journeys in Panama’s rich mudflats and mangrove forests, making this small country tremendously important to migratory avifauna.
Panama Bay alone hosts a third of the global population of Western Sandpipers, a fifth of the world’s semipalmated Plovers, and dozens of other North American migratory bird species. But away from the coasts, Panama has a wide range of other important bird habitats—humid jungles, dry deserts, and 11,000-foot-high cloud forests—that host more than 1,000 bird species.
Unfortunately, Panama’s wildlife-supporting ecosystems face many threats, including unsustainable development, polluted runoff, and root-strangling trash.
Audubon’s work in Panama
The National Audubon Society has been working to support science and conservation action across Panama since 2006, in partnership with the Panama Audubon Society (our BirdLife International partner), government agencies, and the private sector. Our key focus areas include…
Science and Monitoring: We use new and expanded species monitoring and scientific analysis to identify important habitat areas and support decision-making.
Community Engagement: We boost citizen awareness through school programs and outreach, to grow and empower a community of people who care about birds and understand the importance of conservation.
Capacity Building: The National Audubon Society and Panama Audubon Society work together to build local conservation capacity and support more effective, targeted actions that improve management of wetlands and other priority areas.
With 2,490 km (1,550 miles ) of coastline, Panama is a focal point for Audubon’s coastal resilience strategy, which aims to restore or improve the management of 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres) of coastal bird habitat in Latin America and the Caribbean. In Panama, we’re working to mainstream nature-based and green infrastructure solutions into national and regional planning and policy, with the aim of encouraging smarter development and preserving the services that intact coastal ecosystems provide.
We will achieve this goal through a multi-pronged approach that includes:
Delivering robust science that establishes a blue-carbon baseline
Establishing economic valuation of ecosystem services provided by mangroves and related wetlands
Building knowledge, awareness, and engagement with key stakeholders to drive action that increases protection of these ecosystems
Strengthening policies that promote mangrove conservation and reforestation.
These efforts will be applied in the Bay of Panama, with its mosaic of urban landscapes and mangrove habitat, and the Bay of Parita, a rural landscape in a state of in transition. The innovative project will help Panama include blue carbon associated with coastal natural capital into the country’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. It will also support stronger climate-adaptation efforts, reduce degradation and deforestation, and build mechanisms that drive funding toward mangrove and coastal conservation.
Growing Support for Shorebirds and Coastal Wetland Conservation in Priority Areas
The National Audubon Society and the Panama Audubon Society are teaming up to improve coastal wetland conservation in the Bays of Panama and Parita. These habitats on Panama’s Pacific coast offer some of the most important stopover and wintering habitat for neotropical migrant shorebird species in the Americas.
The initiative includes analyses of shorebird population levels and efforts to prevent the loss of mangrove cover in the Bay of Panama. It also supports the development of a conservation plan for the Bay of Parita that engages key stakeholders, identifies threats, and plots a path for future conservation efforts. Finally, it addresses coastal solid waste—in particular plastics that are killing off mangrove forests, reducing roosting habitat, and presenting a direct threat to shorebirds through ingestion.
Building a Constituency
Audubon and its partners are building momentum and public commitment to bird conservation by engaging one million people across the hemisphere. Our efforts in Panama center around the Aulas Verdes (Green Classrooms) program, presented by our local partner, the Panama Audubon Society. Since 2009, Aulas Verdes has provided environmental curricula, funding for field trips, and other support for schoolteachers.
Currently active in 25 schools and serving more than 3,500 students each year, the program’s goal is to make conservation relevant to generations of future Panamanian voters, scientists, and decision-makers.
Developed in 2009, Aulas Verdes is the Panama Audubon Society’s signature environmental education program. Via field trips and weekly hands-on activities, schoolchildren experience nature and learn how local ecosystems support birds, fish, and other biodiversity found in and around the Bay of Panama. The National Audubon Society is proud to support this program, which has reached more than 20,000 students.