Ecological Assessment of the Flamingo Mangroves, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
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Mangroves are tropical and subtropical ecosystems found in intertidal zones that provide vital ecosystem services including sustenance of commercially important fishery species, improvement of coastal water quality through nutrient cycling and sediment interception, and protection of coastal communities from storm surge and erosion. However, land use conversion and water pollution are threatening these ecosystems and their associated services worldwide. This master’s project conducted an ecological assessment on a mangrove forest adjoining the property of the Flamingo Beach Resort and Spa in Playa Flamingo, located in the Guanacaste province of Costa Rica. The project analyzed vegetation health, water and soil quality, bird species richness, and identified threats to the forest. It also assessed several options for the resort’s development of ecotourism, such as community involvement, the construction of an educational boardwalk, and the creation of a vegetation buffer adjoining the mangroves. The results indicate that the Flamingo Mangroves are generally in a healthy state. Vegetation structure like canopy height, biomass, vegetation importance values, and species distribution compares well with previous ecological studies on mature tidal mangroves. The ecosystem supports 42 resident bird species and likely up to 30 migratory species. However, water quality is a major concern, which reported elevated levels of nitrogen and phosphorus through runoff and discharged wastewater in the northern section of the forest. Additionally, the western edge of the forest adjoining the beach road is frequently disturbed by automotive traffic and runoff, displaying reduced or stunted vegetation and sandy soil. This report contains several recommendations on how to preserve the mangroves by improving water quality, reducing physical and chemical disturbances, and engaging the community. The results of the project will be incorporated into our client‘s and Flamingo community‘s future management practices to conserve the Flamingo Mangroves and emphasize the value of this ecosystem.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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