After a bit of a hiatus (I blame Twitter), I’m going to start blogging again. I’ve also learned (though I’m not surprised) that the Fulbright program is under threat, and since I’m currently on a Fulbright in Nicaragua right now, that seems like another reason to share a bit what’s going on here.
First of all, why Nicaragua?
As a biogeographer and conservation scientist, I have to start with the amazing diversity of ecosystems and organisms that Nicaragua has. Nicaragua is the largest country on the Central American Isthmus that linked North and South America and simultaneously separated the Atlantic from the Pacific some 3 million years ago (when one door opens, another closes, I guess). Nicaragua is a crossroads, with both typically North American and South American flora and fauna as well as marine fauna that in some cases has been separate long enough to see different species in Caribbean and Pacific coasts. And of course, we’re in the tropics, with plenty of light, hospitable temps, and (mostly) plenty of water for massive biodiversity. Add to that mountains, volcanoes, and isolated lakes and you get not just more species but oftentimes endemic species (found nowhere else) that evolved in or are stubborn hold outs in their isolated habitats
Want specifics? How about some 9000 different species of vascular plant (~ not mosses and stuff like that) and nearly 700 bird species. By comparison, my adopted home state of Nevada, which is surprisingly one of the most diverse in the US, is twice as large bat has a mere 488 birds and about 3000 vascular plants.
Is Nicaragua the most biodiverse in the world? Or in the Western Hemisphere? No. One needs to look no further than its neighbors Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia, which all boast more species and species density in most taxa. But while some of its neighbors have long-established research stations, a (relatively) long standing park system with community support and an established ecotourism sector, Nicaragua is a relative newcomer in these areas. Furthermore, Nicaragua is experiencing some of the most rapid forest loss in the world (down about 12% of its forest since 2000), worrisome drought (although 2017 is off to a great start), and is among the most vulnerable nations in the world to climate change. In short, Nicaragua has a ripe combination of potential and need.
The other part of the story is that I personally happen to love Nicaragua as a place. It has amazing cultural diversity, underrated food, a safe environment to work in and bring a family to, and I just so happen to be married to a woman who was born in Nicaragua (¡por gracia de Dios!).
So for me, all of this was the perfect motivation to jump into Nicaragua so I could learn more and hopefully contribute to understanding and sustaining the amazing natural resources and biodiversity in Nicaragua. I’ll share more about that, and some fun aspects of life in Nicaragua in later posts. Nos vemos!