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Barnard College of Columbia University

Publication Date

Spring 2023

Program Name

Panama: Tropical Ecology, Marine Ecosystems, and Biodiversity Conservation


Mangrove is a salt-tolerant, intertidal, tropical tree or shrub and make up a rich community of various organism. On the Caribbean coast of Panama, in Bocas del Toro, mangrove forests cover 28 km2 and are dominated by R. mangle, followed by L. racemosa and A. germinans. Simultaneously, Isla Colón, the most populated and developed among all islands in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago, is a tourist center. Unfortunately, tourism comes at the price of environmental degradation via alteration of natural habitats, solid and wastewater pollution. Therefore, this study aims to gain a preliminary understanding on how the growth parameters of R. mangle seedlings and dry biomass vary with distances from a tourism site, Playa Estrella, Bocas del Toro, Panama. Three sites with different linear distances from Playa Estrella were studied. Results showed that stem diameter and number of nodes were larger in Site 3, the furthest from Playa Estrella. Larger diameter and node count in Site 3 may indicate less impact by pollution created by human on the beach. However, no significant differences were found between total and stem heights across study sites. Thus, the lack of differences in total and stem height in this study may be accounted for the similarity in environmental condition between the sites, and the heights were not as sensitive as the stem diameter and node count. The first two to four internodal heights were larger in Site 1 and Site 2. It’s unclear why this was the case, but these differences may be accounted by variation in the availability of nutrients in the hypocotyl reserve, or the ability to of the seedlings to absorb nutrients to allocate to the stem. Furthermore, dry biomass analysis showed high allocation towards the hypocotyls and low leaf mass ratio (LMR). The result found is potentially a preliminary insight on the impact of human activities on Playa Estrella on the growth parameters of R. mangle seedlings. However, it is not sufficient to draw a holistic conclusion about human impact from Playa Estrella definitively. Future studies should consider not just environmental factors that may impact R. mangle seedlings growth, but also factors that are clearer proxy of human impact such as presence of trash, and nutrient enrichment from waste.


Botany | Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment | Forest Biology | Human Ecology | Latin American Studies | Tourism and Travel


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