THE INFLUENCE OF CONTEMPORARY MAN ON THE ZOOGEOGRAPHY OF THE PANAMA LAND BRIDGE
CALIFORNIA UNIV LOS ANGELES DEPT OF GEOGRAPHY
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The biophysical geography of the Republic of Panama is summarized. There are detailed discussions of prehistoric and historic human ecology on the isthmus with emphasis given to exploitive activities and how they relate to biotic disturbances and alterations. It is shown that man must have been in the isthmian area nearly 20 thousand years ago and that his activities, first as a food gatherer and later as a food producer and gatherer, have markedly influenced the vegetation cover and the faunal patterns on the isthmus. It is posited that the environmental influence was sufficiently great in pre-historic times to have played a significant role in certain faunal dispersals over the land bridge which connects North and South America. The Spanish invasion in the 16th century resulted in a drastic decrease in human population which led to the reestablishment of forest cover over large parts of the isthmus and, probably, an alteration of some of the faunal patterns which obtained at the time of European contact. The imposition of new land-use patterns and the growth of human populations in recent years have led again to major tree removal and faunal impoverishment.