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Darién Biosphere Reserve, Panama

The Darién Biosphere Reserve, National Park and World Heritage site is located in the province of Darién to the east of Santa Fe and the Gulf of San Miguel, and covers the region adjacent to the Colombian border, and includes parts of the Pacific coast. This reserve is a unique site, forming the bridge between the two continents of the Western Hemisphere.

Designation date: 1983


Regional network:  Red de Comités y Reservas de Biosfera de Iberoamérica y el Caribe (IberoMAB) 

Ecosystem-based network:




    Surface: 859,333 ha

    • Core area(s): 338,335 ha
    • Buffer zone(s):  334,469 ha
    • Transition zone(s): 186,529 ha

    Location: 07°10' to 08°30'N; 77°20' to 78°20'W

    Administrative Authorities

    Carlos Sánchez González
    Gestor de la Reserva de la Biosfera DARIEN
    Ministerio de Ambiente
    507- 500 -0855, Ciudad de Panamá, edificio 804, Albrook. Apartado C-Zona 0843, Balboa, Ancón

    Tel.: (5) 6980-8846


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    Ecological Characteristics

    The Biosphere Reserve comprises raised folds and high mountains with the most extensive lowland tropical forest on the Pacific coast in Central America. It contains a wide range of habitats: sandy beaches, rocky coasts, mangroves, freshwater marshes, palm forest swamps and lowland and upland moist tropical forest. Darién forests have been characterized by scientists as the most diverse ecosystems of tropical America and are still relatively undisturbed. 

    It is one of the greatest natural heritages of the Central American Region, where there are four of the nine ecoregions and seven of the thirteen life zones identified in the country. The Darien region also contains three eco-floristic zones and four identified endemic hotspots in Panama.



    Socio-Economic Characteristics

    The area is both anthropologically and historically rich, with two major indigenous groups: Chocos and Kunas , and a number of smaller groups still living by traditional practices. These groups have maintained their subsistence agricultural systems through centuries of cultural contact. Over 31,400 inhabitants live in the buffer and transition areas. On the western boundary of the park, there are a number of small farming plots.

    Darién is the only incomplete section of the Pan-American highway. This would open up the area to settlement and may lead to uncontrolled forestry, mining, agriculture and hunting resulting in deforestation, soil erosion, and disruption of the fragile ecological equilibrium and dislocation of the traditional practices of the indigenous inhabitants. The main goal of the biosphere reserve is to maintain Indian's culture and traditional practices and promote Darién’s regional biological diversity conservation.

    The Darién National Park and Darién Biosphere Reserve have significant tourism and recreational potential that has yet to be explored; the communities within the park and the reserve's buffer zone have high expectations of benefiting from the realization of this potential, as well as from greater productive development in general. 


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    Last updated: June 2019