Fortuna Forest Reserve

Year of compilation: 2003

Site description
Fortuna Forest Reserve protects the watershed of the Fortuna Dam, a major hydroelectric project completed in the mid-1990s. It includes the upper watershed of the Chiriquí River, plus an area in the southwest outside the watershed. On the Pacific side of the continental divide, it contains rugged terrain, with the high point, Cerro Chorcha (2,213 m), in the southeast, and the low point (700 m) in the southwest. The Oleoducto (Pipeline) Road between lowland Chiriquí and the town of Chiriquí Grande in Bocas del Toro traverses the reserve.

Key biodiversity
The globally-threatened Bare-necked Umbrellabird occurs north of the reservoir, but is rare. Fortuna is the western end of the range of the globally threatened Yellow-green Finch, which is uncommon at higher elevations south of the reservoir. The globally threatened Red-fronted Parrotlet is occasional, while Three-wattled Bellbird is present seasonally in small numbers. Among near-threatened species, Black Guan and Blue-and-gold Tanager are common, Resplendent Quetzal uncommon at higher elevations, and Great Curassow is rare, and there is apparently only one record of Resplendent Quetzal. Fortuna contains 38 of 54 species (70%) of the Costa Rica and Panama Highlands EBA, and 38 of 68 species (56%) of biome N06. It also contains a few species of the Central American Caribbean Slope EBA: Lattice-tailed Trogon, Black-crowned Antpitta and Black-and-yellow Tanager. It and the adjacent Palo Seco Protection Forest are the only known sites in Panama for Ashy-throated Bush-Tanager, and also the only place where Strong-billed Woodcreeper and White-bellied Emerald have been recorded recently (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989, Robbins et al. 1995). Since 1976 the area has been extensively studied by ornithologists (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989, Robbins et al. 1995).

Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals include Water Opossum, Slaty Mouse Opossum, Northern Naked-tailed Armadillo, Blackish Small-eared Shrew, Talamancan Yellow-shouldered Bat, Spix's Disc-winged Bat, Western Night Monkey, Sprightly Pygmy Rice Rat, Naked-footed Deer Mouse, Cacomistle, Neotropical River Otter, Ocelot, Jaguarundi, Puma, Jaguar, and Baird's Tapir (Samudio 2000). Reptiles and amphibians include the frogs and toads Atelopus varius, Dendrobates speciosus, Duellmanohyla uranochroa, Hyla graceae, H. lancasteri, H. tica, H. zeteki, Phyllomedusa lemur, Ptychohyla legleri, Smilisca sordida, Eleutherodactylus emcelae, E. gollmeri, E. pardalis, E. podiciferus, E. punctariolus, and E. rugulosus; the salamander Bolitoglossa colonnea; the lizards Anolis carpenteri, A. casildae, A. exsul, A. fortunensis, A. insignis, A. polylepis and A. vociferans; and the snakes Clelia scytalina, Urotheca decipiens and Atropoides picadoi.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The Fortuna Forest Reserve is a concession of the hydroelectric company that operates the Fortuna Dam. Because of this project, there has been a strong economic incentive to protect its watershed. Protection of the watershed is largely the responsibility of the hydroelectric project, rather than of ANAM. This company has recently changed hands. Although major changes in the status of protection of the area are not anticipated, this remains to be determined. There has been a proposal by another company to construct wind turbines in cloud forest which would destroy extensive areas of habitat. Although this project is no longer under consideration, it could be revived in the future. Since 1997, many species of frogs have disappeared, apparently due to a fungal disease (Lips1999).

Tourism facilities exist at Finca Suiza, at the south entrance.

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute operates a small research station in the reserve.

Protected areas
Fortuna Forest Reserve was established in 1976. On its northern and eastern sides it is contiguous with the Palo Seco Protection Forest.

Habitat and land use
The reserve contains very wet montane forest, with small amounts of submontane and high montane forest. The principle land use is as a hydrological reserve for the reservior. Although much of the reserve outside the watershed is cleared (2,800 ha, or 14%) for cattle raising and agriculture, deforestation within the watershed has largely been controlled.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Fortuna Forest Reserve. Downloaded from on 08/12/2022.