CHAPTER 42
ALTERNATIVES TO DESTRUCTION

Research in Panama

GILBERTO OCANA

Conservation Resources Manager

IRA RUBINOFF

Director

NICHOLAS SMYTHE

Staff Scientist

DAGMAR WERNER

Research Supervisor, Iguana Management Project Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Balboa, Republic of Panama

In 1983, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in the Republic of Panama initiated a program called Alternatives to Destruction to develop practices that could help to feed human populations and to provide some alternatives to cattle rearing and other extractive practices that are responsible for much of the destruction of tropical forests in Central and South America. STRI has approached the problem in ways involving both plants and animals with grants from the W.Alton Jones Foundation, the Exxon Corporation, the James Smithson Society, and the World Wildlife Fund. Its goals are either to enhance production in association with native vegetation or to enhance vegetation development and soil stabilization in deforested areas. Animal species selected for management projects feed directly on forest vegetation, so there is an incentive to native populations to preserve some of the forest. STRI is using knowledge derived from basic research to explore approaches that will not only yield harvestable products but will also protect natural forest.

Tropical deforestation and the concomitant loss of biological diversity in tropical rain forests have received much recent attention. The causes of tropical deforestation are complex, and no single response will be sufficient to counteract its effects. The problem has been identified, but solutions will have to incorporate sound biological principles and must be reasonable within a social and economic context. A research organization devoted to tropical biology cannot directly resolve



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