Sarah Chamberland-Fontaine, M.Sc.

BA & Sc in Honours Environment, Minor in Organismal Biology, McGill University; MSc. Renewable Resources, McGill University.




Interests: Sustainable forest management, coastal environments, participatory resource governance, co-management, stakeholder analysis, institutional analysis


Research Summary:





Mangrove forests fulfill essential socio-ecological roles, such as providing timber and other forest products, protecting coasts against erosion and rising sea levels, supporting healthy fisheries, and fostering biodiversity. Within Latin America, Panama has experienced the highest rates of mangrove deforestation since 1980, despite the inclusion of a large extent of their mangrove forests in the National System of Protected Areas. Reasons reported for mangrove loss include noncompliance with regulations, limited multi-actor coordination, and growing trends of coastal development for industrial and commercial purposes. In response to these types of pressures, sustainable mangrove management (SMM) has emerged as an international policy objective, aiming to address mangrove degradation and empower all relevant stakeholders to participate in governance processes. This thesis aims to contribute to SMM scholarship, focusing on the challenges and opportunities associated with mangrove management in Panama. It begins with a literature review covering SMM approaches, associated regulatory frameworks, and recurrent policy gaps related to mangrove forests in Latin America, as well as in Panama more specifically. An exploratory case study of the protected mangrove forest ecosystem of Punta Galeta, located on the Atlantic coast of Panama, is then presented to better understand the extent to which international SMM principles can be applied to a local mangrove management context. Findings suggest that SMM could benefit from a greater focus on strategies to enhance communication, collaboration, and trusting relationships between diverse stakeholders, as well as from a more cohesive vision for the sectoral uses of coastlines.  Building on these findings, an analysis of Panama’s mangrove-specific policies is combined with insights drawn from key informant interviews with national-level mangrove policy actors to better understand the structural gaps and policy challenges.  From the overlapping jurisdictions to competing management perspectives (conservation versus development), mangrove policies were found to be contradictory and fragmented. Potential SMM strategies to overcome these policy challenges are discussed, and future research needs identified.


Awards and Scholarships:

Joseph Armand Bombardier: Canada Graduate Scholarship-Master’s (CGS M), SSHRC, McGill University, ($17500) (2020)

Graduate Excellence Award, McGill University (2019)

NSERC CREATE Program in Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Sustainability (BESS) Research Stipend (2020)

Walter M. Stewart Fellowship, McGill University (2019)

STRI-McGill-NEO (SMN) Fellowship (2019)



Chamberland-Fontaine, S., Heckadon, S. and Hickey, G.M. (2022). Tangled roots and murky waters: Piecing together Panama's mangrove policy puzzle. Frontiers in Forests and Global Change: Accepted.