A conservation Landscape assessment of Panama Bay, Panama

Shorebirds are declining worldwide. An analysis using data from long-term counts of 19 North American shorebird species suggests a 50% decline since 1974. While the factors contributing to shorebird declines are complex and not firmly established, wetland destruction and depletion of associated food resources at stopover and wintering sites are implicated as driving factors. Shorebirds are migratory, traveling as much as 30,000 km a year and spending up to two-thirds of the year at wintering grounds. Panama Bay is one of the most important wintering and stopover areas for shorebirds in the western hemisphere. At least 33 shorebird species are known to use Panama Bay. The numbers are astounding. For example, over 1 million Western Sandpipers - representing 30% of the entire species - are thought to use Panama Bay during the migratory season. The majority of shorebirds utilize the area of Panama Bay directly adjacent to Panama City, one of the fastest growing cities in the world.   

Seasonal upwelling, which brings nutrient-rich waters to the surface, combined with the seven-meter tides of Panama Bay are likely major factors contributing to the large expanses of mudflats, which are an important food source for millions of shorebirds.

In 2015, Advanced Conservation Strategies conducted a Conservation Landscape Assessment of Panama Bay for the David & Lucile Packard Foundation. A research team, including natural scientists, social scientists, architects, and land use planners, conducted primary and secondary research, including stakeholder interviews across all sectors in Panama City. The goal was to assess the state of shorebird habitat protection in Panama Bay and how it fits into the larger landscape and dynamics surrounding the Panama City metropolitan area. Advanced Conservation Strategies also provided a series of broad, forward-looking recommendations to improve wetland and shorebird protection. 

You can download the report here, available in English and Spanish. Also, links are provided below to supplementary materials.

  • A list of organizations and individuals interviewed for the Conservation Landscape Assessment [PDF],
  • Some of the references used to support the Landscape Assessment [PDF], and
  • Information on the status of Panama Bay's shorebirds [PDF].