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INTRODUCTION TO THE CASE STUDY

Isla del Tigre and the Gulf of Fonseca
Pacific Coastal Zone of Honduras

Locational, Ecological, and Historical Parameters:

View of Isla del Tigre from the nearby volcanic island of Sacate Grande.  Port of Amapala is in the distance--it was once the main port for Honduras on the Pacific coast.Isla del Tigre (Tiger Island) and the historic Port of Amapala are on a beautiful volcanic island in the Gulfo de Fonseca in the Valle Department on the southern Pacific coast of Honduras--see also Choluteca region. Until the new deep-water port of San Lorenzo was built in recent years, Amapala was the principal Pacific port for the country. It is now a sleepy fishing and tourism community.

Review the detailed map of the island and the Landsat image of the region in the introduction and the Weller Cartographic Services Map. See also the GOOGLE Earth location placemark by the Global Volcanism Program - El Tigre and Honduras Geology (Rob Rogers) an excellent website on geology in Honduras including the nearby Chortis Block countries and regions.

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Part of the island's landscape and cultural-ecological appeal are the remnant patches of Neotropical Pacific Dry Forest vegetation still found on the upper slopes of this classic stratovolcano. Read more about the volcanic history of Honduras below (from the Global Volcanism Program description):

  • IAVCEI, 1973-80. Post-Miocene Volcanoes of the World. IAVCEI Data Sheets, Rome: Internatl Assoc Volc Chemistry Earth's Interior.
  • Williams H, McBirney A R, 1969. Volcanic history of Honduras. Univ Calif Pub Geol Sci, 85: 1-101

Read more about these endangered dry tropical forest ecosystems from:

Ariel Lugo, Tropical Dry Forests and Ecosystems. See also BIOTROPICA 37(4): 477–485 2005. Research Priorities for Neotropical Dry Forests. Sanchez-Azofeifa, Quesada, Rodriguez, Nassar, Stoner, Castillo, Gamon, and Cuevas-Reyes.

Most of the island has been declared a multiple-use reserve. The port of Amapala is also listed by UNESCO as a historical and World Cultural Heritage Site because of its unique architecture, and charm. In 2006 a new school in tourism and hotel management was launched on the island to assist in preservation of the region as well as train personnel for the growing tourism industry across the country. There are several small hostels, inns, B&B's, and even a new hi-end resort overlooking some of the more important beach sites, e.g. Playa Grande and Playa Negra besides those in the town center (see Choluteca region) and see DETAILED MAP and Virtual Tour - Stops # 8 and #9.

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The port of Amapala - listed by UNESCO as a historical and cultural heritage site because of its unique architecture, and charm. Isla del Tigre is within the larger Gulf of Fonseca which is shared by three countries: Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. The island is the largest of a small archipelago of islands (see landsat image). The photo at left shows one of those islands--Isla Esposicion--as seen from the harbour at Amapala; this island also has a very intact stand of Pacific Dry Forest. The entire archipelago is part of a significant marine and terrestrial reserve as is the large volcanic peak seen across the strait from El Tigre known as Sacate Grande. This peak--once an island itself until connected by a causeway to the mainland through the mangrove swamps--is where the road now ends at Coyolito and where small launches to Amapala can be taken.

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Extending back east from the archipelago is a deep bay--Bahia de Chismuyo (see below) which is completely ringed byportant example of this aquatic ecosystem between South and North America. See: Plan de Manejo Bahia de Chismuyo.pdf by CODDEFFAGOLF and PROARCA/USAID.

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Aquatic and terrestrial bird sanctuary of El Jicarito along the Gulf of Fonseca in southern Honduras.As one might expect, the Gulf is one of the most important sites for migratory birds as well as endemics along the Pacific Hemispheric Flyway and the WHSRN (Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network). Several aquatic and terrestrial/coastal bird sanctuaries are found along the Gulf such as the Jicarito Reserve (photo at left) as well as Punta Raton reserve, where sea turtles lay their eggs from August to November each year. The latter reserve is near the beach village of Cedeño.

For more on birding in Honduras see--BIRDING HONDURAS (Route #5--Pacific Coast). Much of this coast is protected under the global RAMSAR wetlands convention. See quote below from the RAMSAR website (below):

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Ramsar Convention celebrates its 1000th Ramsar site - The Government of Honduras has designated the world’s 1000th Wetland of International Importance, as of 10 July 1999...". The new Ramsar site, Sistema de Humedales de la Zona Sur de Honduras (the wetlands system of the southern region of Honduras), is a complex of seven coastal areas totaling 69,711 hectares along the Honduran portion of the Golfo de Fonseca: Bahía de Chismuyo, Bahía de San Lorenzo, Los Delgaditos, Las Iguanas y Punta Condega, Jicarito, San Bernardo and La Berbería, along the Corredor Biológico Mesoamericano Pacífico de Honduras.

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An example of the many commercial shrimp farming and salt evaporation ponds  now expanding into critical mangrove areas of the Gulf of Fonseca southern Honduras.Human impacts on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems on the Pacific coast are increasing significantly--particularly from the expansion of commercial agriculture, shrimp farming, and salt evaporation ponds (see satellite image) as well as small and large-scale cattle ranching, subsistence farming, and fishing. Conservation is becoming a priority as well as finding mechanisms to accommodate economic growth and expansion. This southern part of Honduras has traditionally been one of the poorest areas in the country. Several NGOs have formed to deal with both the human as well as ecological issues facing the region, e.g. see: “JUNTOS HACIA EL DESARROLLO SOSTENIBLE”--CODDEFFAGOLF. See document: Proyecto Manejo y conservacion de los manglares del Golfo de Fonseca, Honduras (PROMANGLE). AFE-COHDEFOR - OIMT Enero 2001 (PDF).

 

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In addition to studying Isla del Tigre, Loma Linda University working with the USAID/MIRA Project carried out an assessment of herpetofauna in some of the remaining protected areas that attempt to protect last remaining parts of the Pacific Dry Tropical Forest--specifically in Cerro Guanacaure and La Botija:

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Select Publications Released:

.Lovich, R.E., T.S. Akre, M. J. Ryan, N.J. Scott, and R.E. Ford. 2006. Herpetofaunal survey of Cerro Guanacaure, Montaña La Botija and Isla Del Tigre protected areas in southern Honduras. Report prepared for the United States Agency for International Development. 33pp.

ROBERT E. LOVICH, THOMAS AKRE, MASON RYAN, SOFIA NUÑEZ, GUSTAVO CRUZ, GERARDO BORJAS, NORMAN J. SCOTT, SAUL FLORES, WILBIRTH DEL CID, ADAN FLORES, CESAR RODRIGUEZ, ILEANA R. LUQUE-MONTES, ROBERT FORD. New Herpetofaunal Records from Southern Honduras. Herpetological Review, 2010, 41(1), 112–115. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles.

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One of the prime outputs was to do conservation GIS projects that enhance protected area management practices and build capacity to plan for longer term conservation of the threatened dry tropical forest system and the human and natural landscapes associated with them.

Read more from: Ariel Lugo, Tropical Dry Forests and Ecosystems. See also BIOTROPICA 37(4): 477–485 2005. Research Priorities for Neotropical Dry Forests. Sanchez-Azofeifa, Quesada, Rodriguez, Nassar, Stoner, Castillo, Gamon, and Cuevas-Reyes.

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Land Use/Land Cover Change: Isla del Tigre and the Gulf of Fonseca:

Following are on-the-ground and aerial photo tours of Isla del Tigre as well as surrounding human-impacted and remaining natural landscapes. The purpose of the tour is to give you a virtual view of the different types of land classes that you will encounter in your interpretation of satellite imagery. This will be essential as you move from an unsupervised to a supervised classification. It will also give you a tourist's or specialist view of ecology, agriculture, fisheries, tourism, forestry, human-impacts, and other land uses or land covers that are visible today.

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