Central America’s dry forests are the least protected and most endangered habitats in the region. Dry forests cover 10 percent of the region, of which only 3.3 percent are included in protected areas. In Nicaragua, scarcely 4.5 percent of dry forests are included in the national protected areas system.
Dry forests shelter a great variety of plants and animals, all of which are vulnerable to unsustainable human activity. Deforestation—from agriculture, large-scale cattle ranching activities, invasive species, pinion and sugar cane plantations for biofuels, urbanization, fires, hunting, plant extraction and lack of public awareness of the forest's ecological value—is a major threat here.
Dry Forest Conservation in Communities around the Momotombo and Telica Volcanic Range
Nicaragua’s Momotombo and Telica volcanic range harbors some of the largest remnants of Central America’s highly endangered tropical dry forests. To help protect the range, the Conservancy launched a planning process to create and maintain connections across forest patches and protect endangered species that live in the region, such as the yellow-naped Amazon parrot.
A key conservation strategy here has been to promote and implement sustainable production that generates additional income for local communities while reducing pressures on dry forests. Activities have included ecotourism, sustainable honey and coffee production, and commercializing ojoche, the seed from the native breadnut tree that is highly nutritious and is used to prepare hot and cold beverages or ground into flour for tortillas, cereals and baked goods.
Central government and international agencies, municipal governments and local NGOs have worked to bring together political, social and environmental issues at national, landscape and local site levels. The Conservancy’s work here also has focused on providing technical and economic support for environmentally-sustainable initiatives that improve the well-being of local communities.
In its efforts to protect Nicaragua’s remaining dry forest habitats, the Conservancy has helped facilitate a national alliance for the protection and management of dry forests. We are now seeking to strengthen and expand the alliance to include the participation of new stakeholders—primarily private enterprises and forest production cooperatives—because their involvement is essential to conserving dry forests.
Pine-Oak Forests of Northern Nicaragua
The pine-oak forests of Mesoamerica stretch from Chiapas in southern Mexico through the northern region of Nicaragua and are considered a critically threatened habitat. Deforestation, forest fires, and expanding agriculture are the main pressures facing pine-oak forests. The Conservancy has worked with partners to establish national, municipal and private protected areas for this habitat and to improve management by implementing conservation plans in priority protected areas.
Central America’s pine-oak forests also are one of the most important wintering ranges for North American migratory birds, and the Conservancy has been a member of the Continental Alliance for the Conservation of the Central American Pine Oak Ecoregion and its Birds. We have worked with diverse partners—including one of the last remaining indigenous communities in north-central Nicaragua—to implement key strategies established by the alliance, which include sustainable forest management, forest fire prevention and mitigation, and strengthened collaboration to preserve pine-oak forests.
Private Land Conservation: Conservation Connectivity
In Nicaragua, the Conservancy has supported the Private Wildlife Reserves Network, composed of 50 private reserves that cover approximately 16,000 acres throughout the country. These reserves practice sustainable forestry, ecotourism and environmental education projects and gather regularly to share their experiences and lessons learned. The Conservancy has helped the network secure its long-term sustainability by providing technical assistance, increasing the profile of private reserves and encouraging other landowners to place their lands under protected status.