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Ellison Abstract- 2004 Ellison (Wetlands)

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Ellison, A. M. 2004. Wetlands of Central America. Wetlands Ecology & Management 12: 3-55.


The wetlands of seven Central American countries – Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panamá – are reviewed. The region's wetlands are classified into five systems: marine, estuarine, riverine, lacustrine, and palustrine. At a minimum, wetlands cover ~40,000 km2 (~8%) of the land area of Central America. These wetlands support high levels of biological diversity, especially of invertebrates, amphibians, and migratory birds. Because of intensive deforestation and conversion of forest lands to agriculture, many species of birds and mammals that formerly were abundant in upland forests now are restricted to wetland refugia. Annual primary productivity of some Central American wetlands equals or exceeds that of tropical rainforests, and wetlands also provide essential ecosystem services such as maintaining water quality. Population and development pressures formerly restricted to upland areas are expanding rapidly into wetlands, resulting in losses of wetlands at rates comparable to losses of rainforests. Since 1990, all seven Central American countries have become signatories to the Ramsar convention on wetlands of international importance, but integrated planning for management and conservation of wetlands in the region only began in 2002. A specific set of recommendations for wetland inventory, ecological research, and management is provided that would be feasible and effective within the social and cultural framework of the Central American countries.

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