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Banana plantations - Costa Rica

Deforestation and conservation

The Paseo Panteria (path of the panther) project – now the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor – was an ambitious attempt to link rainforest reserves through Central America to provide a path across deforested areas linking wildlife communities.

Deforested, agricultural land in Costa Rica is similarly a patchwork of cultivated land and forest fragments.

Matlock, Rogers et al, understanding the importance of connectivity, conducted research to determine the value of those forest habitats adjacent to banana plantations, to the conservation of bird communities. The results indicated that such areas “may provide viable habitat for the conservation of migrants and bird species moderately susceptible to habitat alteration.”  On the basis of their results, they proposed that:

“the integration of small-scale forested reserves with intensive agriculture may be a valuable conservation strategy in the future as regions outside principal conservation areas are deforested.”

Peter Edwards (co-author) explained that the practical application of the research “offers a way to create a corridor connecting conservation areas across agricultural land by having a network of reforested areas along riverbanks and drainage canals – like a wound being healed.” The challenge is thus:

  • Protecting remaining forest fragments,
  • Allowing secondary forest to develop
  • Planting and connecting forest fragments via forest corridor
Patchwork of banana plantations, forest fragments and rivers (Aerial photo of terrain 18 Kb JPEG)
Patchwork of banana plantations, forest fragments and rivers

Edwards suggests that the power behind this idea will be released when it’s carried out on a landscape scale wherever agriculture is imposing on natural habitats; e.g. Oil Palm plantations in Thailand or Soya in Argentina. “For newly deforested areas, the idea is to maintain a level of connectivity and it’s much easier to do that if you have a landscape plan to minimise the damage.”

As an outcome of this and related research projects, Edwards worked with banana companies to develop the Principles of Integrated Farm Management and their application in banana plantations is developed in the Integrated Farm Management Wheel which will become available from this site. The practical application of the research above will be discussed in the section: Wildlife and Landscape Management.