Research sites

“San San Pond Sak” wetland, Bocas del Toro Province

An internationally recognized site of special scientific importance (Ramsar site # 611), The San San Pond Sak wetland consists of 164 km2 mosaic of fresh and marine influenced wetlands, including the significant 80 km2 Changuinola peat deposit, an ombrotrophic system to the south east of Rio Changuinola. The three river basins that directly influence the wetland (Rio Changuinola, Rio San San and the Rio Sixola) drain the geologically young Talamanca Cordillera. This has produced a narrow alluvial plain within which interfluvial barrier beaches have impounded a number of macro- and meso-scale lagoons. While extensive estuarine systems exist at the mouth of the rivers, these back-barrier lagoons, having undergone a process of hydrosere succession, have resulted in large freshwater peat domes in close proximity to the coastline (Phillips et al. 1997).


San san Pond Sak


The Changuinola peat deposit within san san pond sak

Caribbean coastal ombrogtrophic mires such as the Changinola deposit are formed about by the accretion of organic material from successive vegetation communities in an everwet setting. They are similar to peat domes of Borneo, although pollen analysis suggests a different initialization of peat deposition and phasic communities (Anderson and Muller 1975), there are similarities. The changuinola peat deposit represents a visible toposequence, with the gradient in vegetation communities mirroring their development over time. Identified communities show a progression from peripheral palm swamp (Raphia taedigera) through forested wetlands (Campnosperma panamensis and Cassipourea sp.) to a herbaceous (Cladium sp.) bog plain.
Associated with the obvious topographical and vegetation trends present in the wetland is a distinct nutrient gradient, from a generally impoverished central region to a relatively rich outer fringe (Troxler-Gann, 2007, Sjögersten et al 2011).

San san Pond Sak

Interior Bog plain of the Changuinola peat deposit, Bocas del Toro