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Rapid Ecological Assessment Sarstoon Temash National Park, Toledo District, Belize

The Sarstoon Temash National Park (STNP) was created in 1994 and is the second largest National Park in Belize. However, intimate biological details of the area have never yet been recorded. No specific species lists for flora and fauna exists, and even the local residents are uncertain about the full variety of wildlife that may occur in the park. A Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA) of the biological resources within Sarstoon-Temash is expected to confirm the global significance of the Park's wetland and wet forest ecosystem.

The "Community Managed Sarstoon Temash Conservation Project" (COMSTEC) was identified when five indigenous communities in the Sarstoon Temash region (4 Q'eqchi' Maya and 1 Garifuna) indicated that they wished to continue to actively participate in the preservation of their ancestral lands, which included the STNP. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Bank were approached for funding. Approval for funding resulted in the establishment of the "Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management" (SATIIM), a formally registered NGO.

The objective of the COMSTEC project is to reduce land degradation and conserve globally significant biodiversity resources in the STNP and its buffer zones. Proposed activities are based on the concept of co-management, as the most effective means for addressing open access problems related to indigenous peoples and natural resource use. Co-management aims to reconstitute the incentives at the local level in a way that those closest to the resource - the local indigenous people - are given a greater stake in its long-run viability and to directly involve the population in the effective protection of resources. In practice, this means increasing the feasibility of exclusion (promoting a sense of responsibility for the resource, improving control) and creating awareness for joint benefits of the resource (biodiversity, soil and water conservation).

The underlying objectives of the REA are: (a) to carry out a detailed rapid ecological assessment; (b) to complete a field methodologies training program with selected members of the buffer communities; (c) to compile a detailed species list (flora and fauna taxa) with both common and scientific names; (d) conduct both terrestrial and aquatic assessments (during both the wet and dry season); (e) to produce a detailed ecosystems map; (f) to identify indicator, keynote and/or flagship species, establishing benchmarks, from which to monitor ecosystem change; (g) to establish a standardized field methodology for the monitoring program.

On April 15, 2003, the contract for the REA was granted to Jan Meerman and his team (Peter Herrera, Augustin Howe).

Group Picture Barranco

A formal training workshop was carried out April 23-25, 2003 in the village of Barranco. A total of 19 volunteers from 4 villages (Barranco, Midway, Conejo, Sunday Wood and Crique Sarco participated. Participants included: Aurelio Pop, Maximiliano Tush, Adriano Tush, Alberto Salam, Alfonso Makin, Armando Coc, Juakin Cucul, Valentin Makin, Daniel Sam, Rolando Caal, Manuel Cab, Ricardo Rash, Raymon Ramirez, Egbert Valencio, Beatrice Mariano, Marcus Coy, Wayne Bo, Juan Pop and Mateo Ceh jr. In the picture also: Augustin Howe, Peter Herrera and Jan Meerman.

Transect Training One of the aspects of the training was how to carry out a vegetation transect. Here participants can be seen taking measurements and taking notes. Identification in the field was by Augustin Howe and Jan Meerman Mateo Keh jr.

Results of the REA are presented at the scenes page. Also an entirely un-described ecosystem was discovered during one of the surveys!

Final Report was completed in December 2003 and can be downloaded from here (large files!) Sarstoon Temash REA Final Report December 2003 (pdf 3,560 kb), Sarstoon Temash REA: Appendices with Final REA Report (pdf 4,622 kb)


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Last modified: December 12, 2003