Molly Roske, MFS

2013 TRI Fellow in Panama

Land Use Change, Forest Fragmentation and Riparian Ecosystem Health in the Dry Tropics of Panama

Dry tropical forest is an increasingly rare ecosystem in the western hemisphere due to widespread fragmentation and conversion to pasture, agriculture, or expanding human settlement. In Panama’s Azuero peninsula, patches of dry tropical forest have been reduced to stream (riparian) zones in pasture-dominated landscapes, but until now no assessment has been made of the health and ecosystem functions of these forest patches. My research focused on addressing a) how much of this region’s streams remains buffered by riparian forest, b) how measures of forest structure/composition can be indicators of stream stability or degradation, and c) how this information can be used in tandem with land use history and other social drivers of riparian forest (mis)management, to develop criteria for landscape-level optimization of riparian forest ecosystem services.