Centres of Plant DiversityEntry ID: SI_NMNH_CPD
Abstract: Floristically, Central America is the least known part of the world, yet it is extremely rich in numbers of plant species. Of the world's c. 250,000 species of flowering plants, an estimated 15,000-17,000 species live in Central America.
The number of economic plants in Central America is very large. The forests and other vegetation are important for example for foods, flavourings, medicinals, ... oils, dyes, natural pesticides, fibres, wood, energy and ornamentals (Table 35). Major compilations have been published on useful plants in Central America (Morton 1981; Williams 1981), including information on those species that are more or less endemic to Middle America or Central America, or either of these regions and also the Caribbean and/or northern South America.
In recent years, the countries of Central America have agreed to several regional endeavours to help balance environmental concerns and development, with creation of a Comisión Centroamericana de Ambiente y Desarrollo (Central American Commission for Environment and Development) (CCAD) in 1989, which entered into effect 14/6/90, and was followed by a Central American Agenda on Environment and Development (1992, 26 pp.) and an Alianza para el Desarrollo Sostenible de Centroamérica (Alliance for Sustainable Development of Central America), 12/10/94 (13 pp.). The region also has agreed to a Convenio para la Conservación de la Biodiversidad y Protección de Areas Silvestres Prioritarias en América Central (Convention for the Conservation of Biodiversity and Protection of Priority Wild Areas in Central America), 1992. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) agreed in 1994 to provide an initial US$50 million to the Central American Environmental Fund in support of this Alliance.
The Central American region has widely distributed plant species, and notable areas with high levels of endemism and diversity, eight of which are covered as Data Sheets.
Data Set Citation
Dataset Originator/Creator: Smithsonian Institute, National Museum of Natural History
Dataset Title: Centres of Plant Diversity
Dataset Release Place: Washington, D.C.
Dataset Publisher: Smithsonian Institute, National Museum of Natural HistoryOnline Resource: http://botany.si.edu/projects/cpd/ma/macentral.htm
ISO Topic Category
Quality The following are gaps in coverage in the system:
The majority of protected areas in the region have an emphasis on protecting
mountain ecosystems (such as the peaks and volcanoes with cloud forests) and
low tropical rain forests. Many areas of endemics and unique ecosystems are not
... well represented in SICAP. Examples are dry or semi-arid zones, humid mountain
forests of cold altiplanos, zones with nearctic vegetation (oaks, pines,
Liquidambar, etc.) and rare vegetation associations.
Consequently, many important additions need to be made to SICAP, including the
following natural areas: the Maya Mountains in the south of Belize; in
Guatemala, the region of Morazán in the semi-arid zone and the cold altiplano
of the Cuchumatanes; in Honduras, the pine forests on Guanaja Island and the
Tawahka Mountain Reserve zone; Los Morrales de Chalatenango in El Salvador; and
the Arenal Cordillera in Costa Rica.
The protected areas located in the most populated zones of the region
(mid-elevation plateaux and zones of the Pacific coastal plain) are the
smallest and their biotopes the most threatened, because of the length of time
human populations have been there and current social pressures. Urgent
protection is needed for these small vegetational preserves to create areas
which, through ecological restoration, will provide a return of the ecological
goods and services required for wise development in these zones (e.g.
north-western Costa Rica's Guanacaste Conservation Area - see Janzen 1986;
Nicaragua and Guatemala offer the greatest potential within Central America for
the creation of new units of conservation that would protect both ecosystems in
the mountain zones and the lowland rain forest of the Atlantic coast. IRENA
(1993) identified 1320 km² for the possible addition of protected areas in
Nicaragua. Studies carried out in Costa Rica show the necessity to modify some
of the boundaries of protected areas, with objectives (among others) of
improving the representation of vegetation communities, enlarging key habitats,
protecting endemic species and uniting strategic ecosystems (including remnants
of natural resources, and incorporating marine resources).
Other ecosystems, such as mangrove swamps and humid coastal zones, need greater
protection and more effective management throughout the region. National parks,
such as Corcovado (CPD Site MA18) and Tortuguero in Costa Rica, have official
marine portions that need better management.
The region lacks development in management and conservation of marine
resources. Very few wetland coastal parks and marine parks exist - but there
are the Ríos de Cuero y Salado refuge in Honduras (85 km²), Cayos Miskitos (c.
5027 km²) in Nicaragua, and Islas del Coco National Park (24 km²) and Caño
Negro faunal refuge (c. 100 km²) in Costa Rica.
Suitable additions to the Central American system of coastal and marine
protected areas are multiple bays and reefs through Belize; some areas of
mangrove swamp in southern Belize; Punta de Manabique - La Graciosa and Manchón
in Guatemala; Humedales de Caratasca, Laguna de Guaymoreto and Islas del Cisne
in Honduras; Los Cóbanos in El Salvador; the Golfo de Fonseca as a tri-national
micro-region of El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua; Río Grande de Matagalpa
Delta, Tapamlaya and Kukulaya in Nicaragua; and Isla de Coiba in Panama.
The desirability of creating on frontier international borders both terrestrial
and as well coastal marine protected areas has been recognized since 1974, but
not until recent years have real interest and action been demonstrated. The
best known projects include the establishment of La Amistad International Park
between Costa Rica and Panama in 1982/1986 (CPD Site MA17); Trifinio or La
Fraternidad Biosphere Reserve between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras in
1987; and the International System of Protected Areas for Peace (SIAPAZ)
between Nicaragua and Costa Rica in 1989. These three areas plus the Gulf of
Fonseca, the Gulf of Honduras and the Miskito Cays are six of the eleven areas
given priority under the region's 1992 Convenio para la Conservación de la
Biodiversidad y Protección de Areas Silvestres Prioritarias en América Central.
Many cooperative initiatives between Central American countries demonstrate the
high priority being given to conserving natural resources. Examples include the
Honduras and Nicaragua project for an ecological corridor of Río
Plátano-Tawahka-Río Coco-Bosawas; the Guatemala and Belize project for the
Chiquibul-Maya Mountain area; and the System of Protected Areas of the Gran
Petén (SIAP) which includes Calakmul in Mexico, El Mirador-Río Azul in
Guatemala and Río Bravo-Lamanai in Belize.
Access Constraints None
Use Constraints None
Data Set Progress
Role: TECHNICAL CONTACT
Email: info at si.edu
Smithsonian Institution P.O. Box 37012
Province or State: DC
Postal Code: 20013
Role: DIF AUTHOR
Phone: (301) 614-6898
Email: Tyler.B.Stevens at nasa.gov
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Global Change Master Directory
Province or State: MD
Postal Code: 20771
Extended Metadata Properties
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Creation and Review Dates
DIF Creation Date: 2006-01-26
Last DIF Revision Date: 2016-11-18