Preliminary Analysis of Ecosystem Vulnerability to Climate Change in Panamá

Published: Nov 24 2008

While studies in ecological effects of climate change have mostly been carried out at the species level, the overall goal of this study is to assess the vulnerability at the ecosystem level.

Utilizing various sources of environmental data, four domains were considered in this analysis: sea level rise, ecosystem geometry, climatic “niche”, and species sensitivity.  Valuing these four types of vulnerability based on their pertinence to climate change and the quality of the data, an index of Ecosystem Vulnerability to Climate Change (EVCC) was created for Panama.

Combining these four domains to obtain the overall EVCC index highlighted places and patches with high vulnerability in all domains. These were almost all along coastlines (heavily concentrated in Bocas del Toro and the Gulf of Chiriquí coasts), lowland and swampy forests, occasionally flooded forests, mangroves, small islands, and agricultural systems).

Vulnerability to sea level rise analysis Map of ecosystem vulnerability to climate change in Panama
   Vulnerability to sea level rise analysis Map of ecosystem vulnerabilty to climate change in Panama

These results were compared to development and conservation indicators, such as the degree of human intervention, protected areas, species richness, and species endemism.  The main conservation objective in this study is to aid the preservation of all Panamanian ecosystem types in the future, both to minimize biodiversity loss and to maintain ecosystem services to Panamanians.

Although this analysis only considered the country of Panama, it proposes a methodology to evaluate the sensitivity to climate change that can be used and refined in other areas.

The project website, which provides step-by-step GIS analyses and descriptive results can be found at: http://evcc-panama.mcgill.ca

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