Change is the only constant.
Though the existence of change is constant, its rate alters given time and place. No doubt, the rate of change is rapid here. Whether I’m in the jungle or in the city, biological change seems hyperactive. In both contexts, plants animals and landscapes are drastically morphing.
In the city, the built environment, the population, and the culture are in constant flux. When I wake up in Panama City, I hear the confusion mixture of tropical birds complementing the sound of construction. Most of the change here seems to be in the composition of people coming and going: those investing in the city and the canal, those backpacker coming through, and those young entrepreneurial Panamanians launching from the country’s economic hub. While changes to the built environment no doubt affect natural ecosystems, I’m impressed by how the tropics put up a darn good fight. Pigeons and rats do not rule in Panama City, and I hope they never will. The President’s house, in Casco Viejo, houses herons as well…I take that as a good sign.
In the jungle, the change in other species is high while the flux of the human population is close to none. Kalu Yala’s neighbors are campicinos whose families have lived sustainably off the land for generations. The diversity in the wildlife, and the perceived newness on a daily rate, is dazzling. Every day I see at least a dozen species I hadn’t seen before. I never quite know what I’m stepping into, sleeping next to, or hearing. Speciation rate, the rate at which a new biological species arises, is high in the rainforest. Hence, there is immense diversity at Kalu Yala’s basecamp.
With diversity, there is specialization. This applies to cultures, economies, and species. In a paper written by biologists posted at the Smithsonian’s Barro Colorado Island in Panama, the scientists wrote that “ecological communities are organized in ways that favor high diversity, just as a thriving economy supports a diversity of occupations” (Leigh, 250). In the city, there are neighborhoods for the young, affluent Panamanians, for the expats, for the blue-collar, and for the aging populations. In the jungle, there are micro-regions of species depending on altitude, orientation to water source, and much more. Each catchment area is different, just as each city is different. Their changes take them in different directions, as they specialize, sometimes converging, and hopefully always diversifying in mutualism.
Leigh, Egbert Giles Jr & Rubinoff, Ira. “Understanding and Conserving Tropical Diversity: Perspectives from Barro Colorado Island.” Tropical Rainforests: Past, Present, and Future. Ed. Eldredge Bermingham, Christopher W. Dick, & Craig Moritz. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005. 223-250. Print.
Flower Image Courtesy of Terra Hope Filmer