Research and monitoring is crucial in conservation as data is often the best way to implement effective strategies and solutions. The Chiquibul National Park has a station dedicated solely to research and monitoring. Las Cuevas was opened in 1998 and promotes research on the rich biodiversity of the Chiquibul Forest. Scientists, researchers, and students can come stay at Las Cuevas and conduct research in their field of interest. The station provides access to over 18 km of trails and a bird tower. The research carried out at Las Cuevas allows FCD to move forward with their conservation plans and goals. In 2014, Las Cuevas Research Station infrastructure was improved, encouraging more students and visitors to come. In addition, FCD signed a partnership with Las Guacamayas Research Station in Peten, Guatemala.
Current research at Las Cuevas includes Scarlet Macaw monitoring, game species monitoring, macroinvertebrate study, and xate and cedar and mahogany assessments. Scarlet Macaw monitoring includes identifying illegal activities on breeding grounds, monitoring active sites, and checking the health status of chicks. Game species monitoring includes determining the diversity of game species, abundance, and the impact of hunting on target species. Xate assessments include determining abundance and density, calculating their productive capacity, and estimating the gross economic value of illegally harvested Xate. Cedar and mahogany assessments include the volume and economic value of timber harvested and left behind, frequency of logged cedar and mahogany, and the area being impacted by illegal logging. This data is used to implement effective and sustainable protection and management strategies. FCD uses this data to measure the effectiveness of their management plan and to adapt it every five years.
In addition to research and monitoring of biodiversity, GIS and mapping and remote sensing are used to monitor illegal logging and deforestation. Remote sensing techniques can be crucial in monitoring small-scale deforestation. LiDAR (light detection and ranging) has the “ability to capture detailed forest structural information and quantify biomass levels.5″ Its ability to quantify biomass levels makes it an important tool for measuring carbon reserves.5 LiDAR can detect small changes in canopy cover caused by the clearing of individual tree species such as mahogany and the clearing of small tracts of land used by the Guatemalans for base camps.5
FCD Tracks Newsletter January 2013
3Scarlet macaw monitoring program. Final report-2013 nesting season
Scarlet Macaw Monitoring Brochure
Illegal Logging in the Chiquibul
5Use of airborne LiDAR to delineate canopy degradation and encroachment along the Guatemala–Belize border
5Weishampel, J. F., Hightower, J. N., Chase, A. F., & Chase, D. Z. (2012). Use of airborne LiDAR to delineate canopy degradation and encroachment along the Guatemala–Belize border. Tropical Conservation Science. 5(1):12–24.