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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Earth Day 2013 in Laguna de Apoyo

Mara McPartland is an ecologist whose internship with FUNDECI/GAIA culminated with a presentation on a five-year  monitoring project on the birds of Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, Nicaragua.
This year, we celebrated Earth Day by learning about the birds of Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Our conservation science intern Mara McPartland (Ecologist, Bennington College) presented the results of five years of research on the birds here. The presentation was sponsored by the Municipality of Catarina, the Nicaraguan Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, and Movimiento Ambientalista Guardabarranco in Masaya

Plenty of people are very interested in the environment in Nicaragua, which is the principal reason behind the extensive questioning all throughout Mara's presentation. She fielded lots of questions about the procedure, objectives, and results. Furthermore, many people offered their commentaries about the birds of Nicaragua, the status of environmental health in Nicaragua, and the Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. 
Birds of Laguna de Apoyo
Mara McPartland discusses the different sites monitored during the bird study conducted by FUNDECI/GAIA in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Photo by Laura Ruysseveldt.
Mara discussed how data was gathered, through counts made in specific locations monthly, by experts. Our conservation science intern from Sherbrooke University, Pier-Olivier Beaudrault, established each of the monitoring sites used in this program of study. Each site was chosen to represent a typical forest structure of the area, varying by the extent and type of human activity in the area. The study design took into account the pressures on wild areas in the reserve. To demonstrate whether areas with trees cut, undergrowth cleared, houses nearby, agriculture, or reforested second growth vary in their bird communities, we sampled the bird populations in five different sites.
Birds on Earth Day
The audience of this Earth Day presentation included young people from the local community, park guards and municipal staff members, as well as tour operators and conservation professionals. Photo by Laura Ruysseveldt.
The five sites have been followed in this study have special attributes which are reflected in the bird communities. Mara explained that birds in the deepest, closed forest were different from the birds in areas which had been deforested recently, such as former agricultural plots are areas near houses. The lake edge was also monitored, yielding several aquatic birds not seen in the terrestrial ecosystem. 

Earth Day Nicaragua
Mara McPartland discussed the birds most commonly seen in a recently deforested area of Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, on Earth Day 2013. Photo by Laura Ruysseveldt.
Among the common birds throughout the Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve are the Rufous-naped Wren (Campylorhynchus rufinucha), White-throated Magpie-Jay (Calocitta formosa), Long-tailed Manakin (Chiroxiphia linearis), White-fronted Amazon (Amazona albifrons), and the Clay-colored Thrush (Turdus grayi). These birds were not all found in equal abundance in the different parts of the reserve, and furthermore, lots species of birds were less abundant near homes and in deforested areas than in the deeper forest. In brief, we humans are driving out many species of birds from their homes in the forest, even inside the protected areas. 
Earth Day Nicaragua

Mara demonstrated lots of mathematical aspects to the bird abundance data collected over the years, much of it used to demonstrate how the bird communities are affected by buildings, farming, and forest clearing in the area. She also convinced us that Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve has plenty worth saving. One hundred fifty-one bird species were reported in the study, and seventy-five other species were documented outside the study. This immense diversity includes many birds that depend on our protection of the best forest, because so many of them are not compatible with yards and pastures. 

birds of Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve

The audience came from the community of Laguna de Apoyo, as well as Masaya and Managua. It included tour operators, conservation professionals, and lots of folks just interested in admiring and protecting the beautiful aspects of Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. It was nice to see that so many people found interest in the birds, and cared to celebrate Earth Day!
Earth Day Nicaragua
Mara contemplates the Chestnut-capped Warbler, a resident bird of Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Photo by Laura Ruysseveldt.
The study of the birds of Laguna de Apoyo presented was co-authored by: Pablo Somarriba, Elmer Nicaragua, Marlene Kroner, Vera Neumann, Lukas Betthaeuser, Michael Persicke, Catherine Bard-Dechesneau, Pier-Olivier Beaudrault, Jeffrey McCrary, and Joe Taylor. All of these people have placed great amounts of effort into making the study produce high-quality data. Few scientific studies of this magnitude have been conducted and published in Nicaragua, and we hope to have the principal results published soon.

Earth Day gives us an opportunity to remember how fragile nature is in comparison to our tremendous capacity to destroy, and our capacity to channel our energy into positive actions to make the human-dominated work in greater harmony with nature. Earth Day is celebrated each year on the birthdate of Vladmir Ilyich Lenin, which to some is demonstration that environmentalism is a communist plot. The Daughters of the American Revolution, for instance, once said about the date,  "subversive elements plan to make American children live in an environment that is good for them", a convincing argument of the real intentions of environmentalism. 

FUNDECI/GAIA provides opportunities for interns and volunteers in rural development, research, environmental activism, and conservation activities. If you would like to consider an internship or volunteer position with us, please contact us!
Birds of Laguna de Apoyo
We welcome interested people to visit us at Estacion Biologica. 
Our offices are located at Estacion Biologica Research Station in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, Nicaragua. You are welcome to visit any time. 
Birds Nicaragua
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