Wood Thrush, Kentucky Warbler, and many other migrants familiar to North American birdwatchers spend the winter in Central America, where threatened ecosystems like the Caribbean rainforests of Guatemala provide critical habitat. Once a continuous swath of forest, the landscape has been increasingly fragmented by agriculture.
The Guatemalan conservation group FUNDAECO, working with ABC and the World Land Trust, has secured a vital piece of lowland habitat. In November, it acquired 1,672 acres for the new Tapon Creek Nature Reserve, in eastern Guatemala, between the town of Livingston and the Belize border. The purchase helps create a corridor that connects two existing protected areas and links ecological niches across the region.
The reserve and adjacent protected areas will help safeguard not just lowland forest but rare coastal dwarf mangroves, sea grasses in Cocoli Bay, and King Fish Reef, part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, stretching from the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula to Honduras. This ridge-to-reef approach helps birds and many other species, such as tapir, jaguar, peccary, and West Indian manatee.
The reserve will also benefit the area’s human residents. FUNDAECO works with communities to manage protected areas, control illegal activities, and increase ecotourism. And it’s working with local fishermen’s groups on coastal and marine restoration. In order to reduce deforestation and build goodwill, the group is also helping communities in the area secure title to their land.
Visitors to Tapon Creek might take a boat from Rio Dulce, on Lake Izabal, along a 30-mile-long freshwater lake, through a narrow forest gorge, past Livingston, and up a creek lined with dwarf mangroves. At the reserve, they can hike into the jungle to see Keel-billed Motmot, Plain Antvireo, and other resident species as well as Louisiana Waterthrush and other migrants. The birds should have a better chance of returning north in the spring, thanks to FUNDAECO and its partners.
A version of this article was published in the June 2016 issue of BirdWatching.
This story was provided by American Bird Conservancy, a 501(c)(3), not-for-profit organization whose mission is to conserve native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas.
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