A review of the ecological value of Cusuco National Park an urgent call forconservation action in a highly threatened Mesoamerican cloud forest

Thomas Martin*, Samuel Jones, Hannah Hoskins, Niall McCann, SVEN BATKE, Daniel Kelly, Jonathan Kolby, Roberto Downing, Sandra Zelaya, Stephen Green, George Lonsdale, Tom Brown, Shaun Waters, Fabiola Rodriguez-Vasquez, Kenneth McCravy, Michelle D'Souza, Declan Crace, Jose Nunez-Mino, Danny Haelewaters, Pamela BerkumChristopher Phipps, Rik Bakker, Franklin Castaneda, Neil Reid, Merlijn Jocque

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Cloud forests are amongst the most biologically unique, yet threatened, ecosystems in Mesoamerica. We summarize the ecological value and conservation status of a well-studied cloud forest site: Cusuco National Park (CNP), a 23,440 ha protected area in the Merendón mountains, northwest Honduras. We show cnp to have exceptional biodiversity; of 966 taxa identified to a species-level to date, 362 (37.5%) are Mesoamerican endemics, 67 are red-listed by the IUCN, and at least 49 are micro-endemics known only from the Merendón range. CNP also provides key ecosystem services including provision of drinking water and downstream flood mitigation, as well as carbon sequestration, with an estimated stock of 3.5 million megagrams of carbon in 2000. Despite its ecological importance, CNP faces multiple environmental threats and associated stresses, including deforestation (1,759 ha since 2000 equating to 7% of total forest area), poaching (7% loss of mammal relative abundance per year), amphibian declines due to chytridiomycosis (70% of species threatened or near-threatened), and climate change (a mean 2.6 °C increase in temperature and 112 mm decrease in rainfall by 2100). Despite conservation actions, including community ranger patrols, captive-breeding programmes, and ecotourism initiatives, environmental degradation of CNP continues. Further action is urgently required, including reinforcement and expansion of ranger programmes, greater stakeholder engagement, community education programmes, development of alternative livelihood projects, and legislative enforcement and prosecution. Without a thorough and rapid response to understand and mitigate illegal activities, the extirpation and extinction of species and the loss of vital ecosystem services are inevitable in the coming decades.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-50
Number of pages45
JournalJournal of Mesoamerican Biology
Volume1
Issue number1
Early online date30 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2021

Keywords

  • Carbon
  • Central America
  • Chytrid
  • Climate Change
  • Deforestation
  • Endemism
  • Honduras
  • Management
  • Poaching
  • Protected area

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