Panama Canal threatened by denuded forest watershed

Here’s how the Panama Canal works: Torrential downpours batter the country’s forests during rainy season; the water is absorbed into the watershed and feeds steadily into massive, human-made Gatun Lake; the lake then feeds water into the canal. The shipping route thus provided is responsible for some 40 percent of the nation’s economy. Here’s the problem: Half the forest in the watershed surrounding the canal has been lost to slash-and-burn agriculture and logging, and the deforested land doesn’t hold water well. A cutting-edge new effort would have companies that rely on the canal fund a bond that would pay for forest restoration. If you’ve ever wondered why there’s such fuss over “ecosystem services,” just look to Panama: “Without the water,” says one canal guide, “we would be the biggest ditch in the whole world.”