Bigi Pan is situated in northwest Suriname between the Atlantic Ocean and the Nickerie River. Mudflats and extensive black mangrove forests several kilometers wide are found along its coast. Red and white mangrove forests flourish along the banks of the river and creek. Behind these are saltwater ponds, brackish ponds, and lagoons with sea grass and water lilies. There are shallow saltwater swamps with halophytic herb vegetation, and brackish to freshwater grass swamps and woods.
Bigi Pan is owned by the federal government and managed by the head of the State Forest Department and the Nature Conservation Division (NCD). It is a multiple-use management area, serving functions besides wildlife protection such as fishing and recreation. Bigi Pan provides a nursery for seafish, filters water, and protects the mainland from rising seawater levels and storms. High biodiversity at this site makes it especially rewarding for recreation and tourism.
Bigi Pan is part of an Endemic Bird Area due to the common occurence of three range-restricted species: Guyanan Piculet, Blood-colored Woodpecker, and Rufous Crabhawk. The mudflats and the swamps also provide important habitat for numerous North American shorebird species.
Ecology & Conservation
Mudflats and extensive mangrove forests of Avicennia germinans several kilometers in width are found along the coast. Forests of red and white mangrove (Rhizophora mangle and Laguncularia racemosa) occur along the banks of the river and creek. Behind these forests are saltwater and brackish ponds and lagoons with Ruppia maritima and Nymphae ampla.
There are also shallow, saltwater swamps with halophytic herb vegetation, dominated by Sesuvium portulacastrum, or Batis maritima or Sporobolus virginicus; brackish and freshwater short-grass swamps with Eleocharis mutata, Cyperus articulatus, Leersia hexandra or Typha angustifolia; and brackish to freshwater swamp woods dominated with Erythrina glauca. Mixed marsh forests occur on younger river banks; mixed ridge forests occur on elevated areas. There are also several open-water lagoons.
The mudflats and the swamps are important for numerous North American shorebird species. One percent of the biogeographic populations of Semipalmated Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, and Short-billed Dowitchers use Bigi Pan during migration.
The reserve has long supported a breeding population of American Woodstork and remains an important site for this species. Several recent counts have verified that 1% of the entire population breeds at this site. Bigi Pan also provides important foraging habitat for Scarlet Ibis outside breeding season. Many other species are present, including white-tailed deer and jaguar.
Threats and Management
The only serious threat for the shorebirds at this site is large-scale poaching. Law enforcement and awareness projects related to this issue are a focus of current management.
Water-quality studies have been done regularly in Bigi Pan since 1982. In the past, chemical pollution from rice fields was significant, but the chemicals used now are not harmful to birds. There has been an unverified concern that airplanes are dumping chemical residues on the mudflats; if true, the disposed residues would negatively impact the mudflats' invertebrate fauna and degrade the quality of the mudflats as foraging habitat.
More information about Bigi Pan, including documents and references, can be found in ‘Additional Resources.’
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Bigi Pan Mangement Plan 1990
De Jong, B. H .J., & A. L. Spaans. 1984. Waterfowl and wetlands in Suriname. Research Institute for Nature Management, Arnhem, The Netherlands
Held, M.M., 1990. "Status and conservation of the Scarlet Ibis in Suriname"
Morrison, R. I. G., & R. K. Ross. 1989. Atlas of Nearctic shorebirds on the coast of South America. Canadian Wildlife Service, Ottawa, Ontario.
Ottema, O.H. and A. L. Spaans. 2008. Challenges and advances in shorebird conservation in the Guianas, with a focus on Suriname. Ornitologia Neotropical 19 no.1: 339–346.
Spaans, A.L., 1984. "Waterbirds studies in coastal Suriname"
Teunissen, P.A., 1995. "The coastal zone of Suriname. Environmental threats and management".