Archive for the ‘Photo gallery’ Category

Pelliciera comparison and Belize alert

July 5th, 2009

With the afternoon high tide lapping at our ankles, capsule Rosabel’s husband Karl Kaufmann and I are poking around in a patch of mangroves in a suburb of Panama City called Diablo. It’s in the former Canal Zone, migraine a corridor of land that extended five miles on either side of the Panama Canal and was controlled by the US until 1979. It’s a leafy neighbourhood of spacious weatherboard duplex houses that were characteristic of the zone—an entity that ended in 1999 when the canal passed to Panamanian control.

Panama's cash cow: the canal.

KENNEDY WARNE
Panama's cash cow: the canal.


Karl, who has lived in Panama for 30 years and works as data manager at the Smithsonian lab, tells an amusing story about the city being unhappy with the name Diablo and changing it to Altos de Jesus, “Jesus Heights.” But the residents objected, and signs with the new name kept disappearing, until eventually the name change was given up as a lost cause. (So it is now accurate to say that the Panama Canal lies between the devil and the deep blue sea.)

We’re in an area of boatyards, boatsheds and rickety wharves. Karl remembers seeing Pelliciera here in the past, and, sure enough, as soon as we start looking we spot the distinctive pointy leaves and star-shaped flowers. Here on the Pacific coast, the flowers of Pelliciera are much pinker than they are on the Atlantic. Candy Feller wonders if they are distinct subspecies.

A fly discovers the nectar riches of an unopened Pelliciera flower in Diablo.

KENNEDY WARNE
A fly discovers the nectar riches of an unopened Pelliciera flower in Diablo.


There’s something special about finding a treasure like Pelliciera in a neglected backwater in a place called Diablo. It’s partly why I became interested in mangroves in the first place. They’re maligned, they’re marginalised, they’re considered uncharismatic. Documentary makers aren’t beating a path to the mangroves. Their eyes are on terrestrial rainforests and coral reefs. I’ve got nothing against those habitats, but they’ve become ecological celebrities. Mangroves are underdogs. I like the idea of showing what they’re made of.

I turn to see a container ship slipping past, leaving the canal. The canal is being expanded at the moment, with the predictable attendant loss of mangrove forest. Karl asks me a question: Is there anywhere I’ve been on this journey where mangroves are held in high esteem by a majority of people? I can’t think of any.

In the evening Karl and Rosabel take me to the visitor centre at Miraflores Locks, where we watch the electrified “mules”—vehicles on rails on each side of the locks—towing ships through the canal. “The next TV you buy may have spent some time on an old mangrove site,” he says. “Panama grew up on the edge of mangroves, but today’s city is turning its back on them in favour of golf courses and recreational areas.”

A five-billion-dollar expansion will give the canal two new flights of locks and allow larger ships to pass through.

KENNEDY WARNE
A five-billion-dollar expansion will give the canal two new flights of locks and allow larger ships to pass through.


The mangrove outlook isn’t all bad. Along with the recent protection of coastal land along the Bay of Panama, resolutions have been passed that attempt to put a price on mangrove loss. Where mangrove removal is deemed a “public necessity” the land is valued at $20,000/ha. If part of a commercial project the price goes up to $150,000/ha. If mangroves are removed illegally, the fine is $300,000/ha.

Karl sees a problem with this approach. “If you put a dollar value on mangroves it’s an incentive to sell. You’re taking a public asset—the goods and services that mangroves have provided for hundreds of years—and putting it up for grabs in a one-time sale. And it isn’t even the people who get reimbursed for the loss of the asset, it’s the government.”

The correct approach, Karl thinks, is that for every hectare of mangroves taken, a hectare should be replanted. That way the public good is perpetuated for future generations.

Canalside mangroves of Diablo.

KENNEDY WARNE
Canalside mangroves of Diablo.


Rosabel and her colleagues are working to develop a conservation strategy for the Bay of Panama protected area, which they hope will be incorporated into the management plan. They expect battles ahead. Nearly half a million hectares of land near the protected area is under consideration for mining, and a further 40,000 ha just offshore is subject to applications for the extraction of rock and sand. The protected area is going to need sharp legal teeth to fend off developers. It will be interesting to see how the city balances its commitments.

Having just learned how to put PowerPoint presentations on the blog, this web
I am providing two such slide shows created by Candy Feller. The first concerns Pelliciera rhizophorae mangroves, sickness
and the second sounds the alarm re the impact of development on mangroves in Belize.

valeologist
Arial,Sans-serif;display:block;margin:12px 0 3px 0;text-decoration:underline;” href=”http://www.slideshare.net/kennedykiwi/pacific-vs-caribbean-pelliciera-rhizophorae-flowers” title=”Pacific Vs Caribbean Pelliciera Rhizophorae Flowers”>Pacific Vs Caribbean Pelliciera Rhizophorae Flowers
View more documents from kennedykiwi.

Ay caramba! A caterpillar that thinks it’s a snake

June 22nd, 2009

Today we found a caterpillar that belongs in the Guinness Book of Records in the “most bizarre” category. About 8 cm long and as thick as my little finger, syringe it had a head like a snake, which it would lift up if you breathed on it. The tail end had a single Cyclops eye in the middle of it, complete with a fake eyelid that blinked.

The creature was positioned head-down on the trunk of a Pelliciera (perhaps so that a predatory bird would be attracted to the eye, the “decoy”). Pelliciera trunks here are covered with mats of tufting liverworts, which are favourite haunts of tree crabs. The trunk was bare around the caterpillar’s head, and looked to have been grazed by the animal.

I’m working on finding out what sort of moth or butterfly this magnificent beast turns into, but if it’s even half as spectacular as its larvae it must be quite a sight.*

(Click photo to see more pictures of the “snake caterpillar of Valiente.”)

Contender for the 'most bizarre' award?

KENNEDY WARNE
Contender for the 'most bizarre' award?

*UPDATE Annette Aiello, an entomologist with the Smithsonian, has provided me with the following excellent information:

“My guess is that your spectacular caterpillar belongs to the moth family Sphingidae, the sphinx moths, which include the well-known ‘tomato horn worm.’ Several sphingid genera are snake mimics, and in most of the cases I’ve seen so far, it is the ventral surface of the body that is displayed to resemble a snake. You can see that in the attached photograph of a species of Hemeroplanes. The head, mostly hidden, forms the blunt nose of the snake, then behind that you see the ventral surface of the thorax with its three pairs of true legs folded against the body, and the large, dark, false eyes (that can be opened and closed with blood pressure) on the sides of the third thoracic segment. Continuing back, you see the first three pairs of false legs (prologs), which are the large black structures on the ventral surface of the abdomen. The larva is holding on to the substrate with its fourth pair of prologs. In contrast, your caterpillar presents its dorsal surface during the display. The only record I can find of a similar caterpillar is Pholus labruscae, shown figure d, plate xiii of Miles Moss (1912) publication “On the Sphingidae of Peru,” Transactions of the Zoological Society of London 20(2): 73-134. Moss describes the final stage larva as ‘Remarkably snake-like, either end appearing as the head of a snake.’ He reports that the caterpillar eats members of the grape family (Vitaceae).”

Pholus labruscae

Pholus labruscae

Among the Pelliciera

June 21st, 2009

Here are a few more glimpses of the magic forest. (Click on photograph to start slide sequence.)

Bromeliad on a Pelliciera trunk.

KENNEDY WARNE
Bromeliad on a Pelliciera trunk.

Shrimp v mangrove

May 18th, 2009

For the factually inclined, rubella here is some background data on the shrimp vs mangrove conflict from a conversation with Lider Góngora, approved president of the Ecuadorian organisation C-CONDEM. As well as fighting for mangrove protection and empowerment of mangrove-reliant communities, patient Lider and his staff operate a newly opened seafood restaurant in their office complex in Quito (see earlier post).

Lider Góngora Farías, fighting for protection of mangroves and mangrove communities in Ecuador.

KENNEDY WARNE
Lider Góngora, fighting for protection of mangroves and mangrove communities in Ecuador.


* Ecuador was the first country in Latin America to jump on the shrimp bandwagon. The first farms were established in 1977 near Huaquillas, my first port of call in Ecuador. From there the industry spread north, cutting down mangroves as it went. Labour was cheap, profits were high and destruction was rapid.

* By 1998 Ecuador was the world’s largest exporter of shrimp. Shrimp was the country’s second largest export, oil being first.

* Ecuador originally possessed 364,000 ha of mangroves. By 2001, 70% had been destroyed. Of the 108,000 ha of mangroves remaining, 20,000 ha have been granted as concessions for communities to co-manage in conjunction with government agencies.

* It is illegal in Ecuador to cut down mangroves or to site a shrimp farm within mangroves. With reference to these laws, many of Ecuador’s 254,000 shrimp farms are illegal operations.

* More than 1 million Ecuadorians live and/or work among mangroves, and 150,000 depend directly on them for their livelihoods.

And here are some more pictures of the shrimp v mangrove situation in Ecuador.

Shrimp farm buildings glimpsed through gaps in the mangrove ´beauty screen.´

KENNEDY WARNE
Shrimp farm buildings glimpsed through gaps in the mangrove 'beauty screen.' (Click to open slide show)

Embracing the inner mangrove

May 15th, 2009

Here a couple more pictures from my visit to the giant mangroves of Majagual.

Embracing the inner (and outer) mangrove.

ELAINE CORETS
Embracing the inner (and outer) mangrove.


Bromeliad in flower.

KENNEDY WARNE
Bromeliad in flower.