A review of the ecological value of Cusuco National Park: an urgent call for conservation action in a highly threatened Mesoamerican cloud forest

Thomas E. Martin*, Samuel E.L. Jones, Thomas J. Creedy, Hannah Hoskins, Niall McCann, Sven P. Batke, Daniel L. Kelly, Jonathan E. Kolby, Roberto Downing, Sandra M.S. Zelaya, Stephen E.W. Green, George Lonsdale, Tom Brown, Shaun Waters, Fabiola Rodríguez-Vásquez, Kenneth W. McCravy, Michelle L. D'Souza, Declan Grace, Jose M. Nuñez-Mino, Danny HaelewatersPamela Medina-Van Berkum, Christopher D. Phipps, Richard Barker, Franklin Castañeda, Neil Reid, Merlijn Jocque

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Cloud forests are amongst the most biologically unique, yet threatened, ecosystems in Mesoamerica. We summarize the ecological value and conservation status of a well-studied cloud forest site: Cusuco National Park
(CNP), a 23,440 ha protected area in the Merendón mountains, northwest Honduras. We show cnp to have exceptional biodiversity; of 966 taxa identified to a species-level to date, 362 (37.5%) are Mesoamerican endemics, 67 are red-listed by the IUCN, and at least 49 are micro-endemics known only from the Merendón range. CNP also provides key ecosystem services including provision of drinking water and downstream flood mitigation, as well as carbon sequestration, with an estimated stock of 3.5 million megagrams of carbon in 2000. Despite its ecological importance, CNP faces multiple environmental threats and associated stresses, including deforestation (1,759 ha since 2000 equating to 7% of total forest area), poaching (7% loss of mammal relative abundance per year), amphibian declines due to chytridiomycosis (70% of species threatened or near-threatened), and climate change (a mean 2.6 °C increase in temperature and 112 mm decrease in rainfall by 2100). Despite conservation actions, including community ranger patrols, captive-breeding programmes, and ecotourism initiatives, environmental degradation of CNP continues. Further action is urgently required, including reinforcement and expansion of ranger programmes, greater stakeholder engagement, community
education programmes, development of alternative livelihood projects, and legislative enforcement and prosecution. Without a thorough and rapid response to understand and mitigate illegal activities, the extirpation and extinction of species and the loss of vital ecosystem services are inevitable in the coming decades.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Mesoamerican Biology
Publication statusAccepted - 28 Mar 2021

Keywords

  • Carbon
  • Central America
  • Chytrid
  • Climate Change
  • Deforestration
  • Endemism
  • Honduras
  • Management
  • Poaching
  • Protected Area

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