Welcome! This course is a collaborative effort between the faculty of the Universidad Centroamericana and Seattle University. You can access material for this course via the slides below, the direct links above or by using the Modules link in the menu. Click the link below to get started.
This class is an examination of ecological problems and solutions of Nicaragua. As this is a question of both the peoples and the landscapes of Nicaragua, the first module of the course will introduce you to the cultures and ecosystems of Nicaragua.
Dry Forest: Chocoyero Reserve
The first ecosystem we will visit is the Tropical Dry Forest ecosystem around the Chocoyero Reserve. As the name implies, tropical dry forests are characterized by lower precipitation and better drained soils. These lead to more hospitable climates and so Nicaragua, like other parts of Central America, has more human settlement in the dry forest areas. Pasturelands and agriculture are common and human socioeconomic circumstances center around these vocations.
Dry Forest: Communities
As you have learned, the majority of the population of Nicaragua resides in and therefore uses resources from the Dry Forest ecosystem. This module will further flesh out the social and economic circumstances of the people who inhabit the Nicaraguan Dry Forest region around Chocoyero.
Cloudforest: Biological Field Station Juan Roberto Zarruk
The next ecosystem we will explore is the cloudforest. Cloudforest ecosystems are characterized by higher altitude, a high degree of condensation of water (hence the cloud in cloudforest) and a high number of epiphytes (plants that live on the trees, getting sufficient moisture from condensation alone). Tropical cloudforests are some of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on earth and thus, questions that concern the preservation of them are questions that have global significance.
Cloud forests are, by definition, found at higher altitudes and coffee also prefers higher altitudes. Thus the dominant economic driver in this region is coffee production; in fact small coffee growers account for 97% of the coffee production in Nicaragua. As coffee is undeniably a well-known global commodity, an understanding of the relationship between communities involved in coffee production and the surrounding environment is undeniably of global interest.
Mangrove: Estuary Biology
An ecosystem of great significance on the coast is the estuary ecosystem. Estuaries containing mangroves affect geological processes by causing the formation of land or protecting the existing land from erosion as well as acting as protective nurseries for many ocean going species. Mangrove estuary ecosystems are in decline worldwide under pressure from rising sea levels and human development.
Mangrove: Community Resource
As with the other ecosystems we have covered, mangrove ecosystems have communities that utilize the resources they provide. This week we will meet community members who rely on the mangroves at Chinandega for subsistence.
Coast: Alternative Livelihoods
Coastal areas are abundant in resources and the Chinandega area of Nicaragua supports a variety of livelihoods beyond the black cockle harvesting. People from the area have manipulated areas in the mangroves to build shrimp farming operations, small and large, and others have started fish nurseries within the mangroves.
Coastal ecosystems have many aspects, as this is the area where terrestrial ecosystems meet marine ecosystems. On the Nicaraguan coast, this transition zone is characterized by beach or estuary ecosystems. For this module we will focus on the marine/beach species the sea turtle as this species is of interest worldwide and as well exemplifies a resource that showcases the complexity of sustainable resource development.
Freshwater is of interest in Nicaragua as much of the dryforest areas suffer from water shortages. Maintaining a fresh water supply for the populous dry forest of Nicaragua is one of the challenges the country faces. In this module, we will explore two types of freshwater ecosystems, the crater lakes left by collapsed volcanic cones and one of the very large freshwater lakes, Lake Nicaragua, that has found itself mired on controversy lately. The major theme of this course and, indeed, part of the definition of sustainability, has been how to balance protection of the environment without putting additional burdens on the people who live in it. As such, a suitable ending topic is the recent emphasis the country has put on developing green energy sources.