Biodiversity in Panama

Biodiversity in Panama

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The tropics are home to most of Earth’s plant, fungi and animal species – more species can be found within just a few hectares of Panamanian forest than exist across all 50 US states and Canada combined!

Nearly three million years ago, Panama’s rise propelled the Great American Biotic Interchange as species moved between North and South America and formed Panama’s natural landscape. Today this biodiversity serves as its cornerstone.

Biodiversity Hotspot

Panama is one of the biodiversity hotspots, boasting more than 10,000 plant species and 250+ types of mammals, over 320 reptilian species and an abundance of birds. Due to its location as a thin “biological corridor” between North America and South America, this country serves as an invaluable passageway for wildlife migration between these regions.

Colombia is comprised of two biogeographic zones, the Choco-Darien wet forests and Colombian Tumbesian dry forests. A biodiversity hotspot exists here with numerous habitats such as cloud forest, lowland tropical rainforests, mangrove forests, and dry mountain forests exhibiting high diversity levels.

Study results analyzing coral diversity in the Pacific region revealed 57 species, consisting of 19 hard (scleractinian) and 38 soft coral species (octocorals). Researchers determined that Gulf of Chiriqui’s abundance and diversity are comparable with Cano Island Biological Reserve in Costa Rica as an oasis for biodiversity.

An international research collaboration map on biodiversity science in Central America showed that the US, Costa Rica and Panama were among the top active countries. The map displays the number of publications co-authored by different countries and institutions on topics including taxonomy, new species description, morphology ecology genetics systematics conservation.


Panama serves as an invaluable bridge between two continents and oceans, drawing tourists with responsible tourism that contribute to conservation efforts and generate funds to be put toward conservation projects. Panama boasts rainforests, mangrove wetlands and mountain cloud forests with over 1,000 plant species and abundant exotic wildlife from both continents; especially rich biodiversity can be found in its tropical regions which host most of Earth’s plants, animals and fungi species.

Panama’s national parks, forest reserves and wildlife refuges offer numerous ecotourism activities that allow visitors to appreciate nature without negatively impacting its ecosystems. Activities available here include jungle tours, bird-watching and whale-watching in a range of habitats including marine protected areas.

Panama’s national parks, such as Chagres National Park in Darien region and Cerro Azul Mountains’ “Pipeline Road”, are world-renowned birding locations. Additionally, tourists can also explore Panama’s culture by experiencing indigenous communities – for instance in Yarari and Parara Puru villages tourists can learn weaving techniques used by indigenous communities and traditional art forms from indigenous artists.

Panama, as a member of the Global Biodiversity Forum, is dedicated to protecting its natural ecosystems through tourism and sustainable development. As such, their government is increasing the number of tourists visiting protected areas while simultaneously creating buffer zones which benefit local people.


The tropics boast an incredible diversity of plant, animal and fungal species. Such rich ecosystems – often within relatively small spaces – have led scientists to label these regions “biodiversity hotspots.”

Panama’s lush biodiversity makes the country an appealing ecotourism and research science destination, bringing visitors from across the world. Panama’s pristine ecosystems and rainforest habitats also play host to several endangered species such as monkeys, birds, marine mammals and amphibians – an eye-opening sight!

Panama has long been recognized as an outstanding location for bird watching. Over 230 bird species can be found here, including rare and endangered ones like Central American Agouti, White-nosed Coati and Hoffmann’s Two-toed Sloth.

Panama’s rich natural heritage has inspired it to formally commit to the Global Biodiversity Framework, an initiative calling on nations worldwide to stop biodiversity loss by 2030 and build sustainable futures. Here, Panamanian Environment Minister Milciades Concepcion spoke with McKinsey’s Duko Hopman regarding Panama’s approach.

Study the relationship between humans and nature at our Panama program, where you’ll explore conservation topics like sustainable agriculture, indigenous resource utilization and ecotourism – plus conduct your own four-week independent field research project of any topic of your choosing! Located in Panama City as your base of operations to explore Panama’s rainforest sanctuaries – Panama will become home for discovery!

Tourism Impact

Panama’s biodiversity serves as an invaluable asset to its tourism industry, particularly ecotourism. Ecotourism has seen steady growth over the past decade and its contribution is expected to more than triple by 2025. Furthermore, its new model fosters intercultural exchange while strengthening indigenous communities’ sense of heritage and value through economic participation while connecting science more directly to ancestral knowledge.

Scientists find Panama an ideal country for studying wildlife across a range of ecosystems both on and off of its continent. Panama’s tropical rainforests and coastline host an astonishing variety of birds; during an MVP Natural History expedition in Cocobolo Nature Reserve alone a student botanist found up to 700 different species within one square kilometer!

The Smithsonian Institute of Tropical Research utilizes Panama’s rich biodiversity for various studies, with their researchers working extensively on bat species throughout Panama that provide valuable information about ecosystem health and global climate trends.

STRI is helping local communities develop sustainable tourism models to manage both natural and cultural resources in an ethical and responsible manner. Their aim is for these communities to act as true stewards for the heritage that remains from past generations, such as ancestral practices that might otherwise fade away. It is this approach which has earned Panama its leadership role in the 30×30 campaign to protect 30% of oceans by 2030.

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