New funds for Panama Canal Watershed Study
STRI Panama

This concrete weir is used to measure outflow from one of the streams in the Agua Salud experiment. New funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation will support studies to understand how land use affects water availability.

Some seven years ago, STRI embarked upon the Agua Salud project, a long-term, landscape-level experiment to understand how land use choices in the Panama Canal basin will affect water availability, carbon storage, soil fertility and biodiversity—vital environmental services likely to be affected by climate change in coming decades. The project builds upon 100 years of Smithsonian tropical forest research in the Panama Canal basin.

STRI is pleased to announce that the Agua Salud project team has been awarded $2.89 million by the US National Science Foundation towards new hydrological and social science research. The award will fund an interdisciplinary team from the University of Wyoming, Yale University, the University of Colorado, the University of Alberta, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), and the National Environmental Authority of Panama (ANAM) to study how land uses—mature forest, pastureland, reforestation with native tree species or teak, or deforestation--affect water flow.

The grant also funds new research on land-owner and institutional behavior. These decision makers ultimately make the choices that determine how land is managed. Linking incentive schemes, such as payment for environmental services, to new hydrological models will allow researchers to forecast the impact of land use on water flows and to work with land owners to achieve optimum land use solutions.

“This NSF award fits into the concept of Smart ReforestationTM and validates Agua Salud as a leading, innovative project offering a deeper understanding of tropical hydrology and the impacts of land-management practices on ecosystem services,” said STRI director, Matthew Larsen.

Fred Ogden, STRI Research Associate and faculty member at the University of Wyoming leads the grant team. Staff Scientist Jefferson Hall will direct activities in Panama. They are joined by co-PI’s Eli Fenichel, Yale University, and Holly Barnard, University of Colorado. Team members include Vic Admonowicz (University of Alberta), Brent Ewers (University of Wyoming), and Bob Stallard (STRI and the US geological Survey), among others.

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