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Tropical Dry Forest of Costa RicaA biodiversity specially adapted to the seasonal drought
The Tropical Dry Forest is the most threatened terrestrial environment in Costa Rica, and one of the most scarce in Central America (1), which is not a surprise because of its main feature, as being located in a tropical region with markedly seasonal rainfalls, this results in several months of severe drought; indeed it exhibits the most greatest rate of days with no rain along the year in Costa Rica. This implies directly that all the tropical dry forest plants and animals inhabiting there had been developed the proper evolutive adaptations to fit with the conditions of an availability of nutrients and water very much less than rainforest: This obligates plants to lose their leaves during the dry season, and animals to require big territories. Besides it must be confronted the occurrence of human provoked fires precisely and unfortunately in the most dry and hot period.
(En Español: Bosque Tropical Seco de Costa Rica)
Costa Rica Tropical Dry Forest Facts
Tropical Dry Forest imposes Evolutive Adaptations to Survive
The Tropical Dry Forest Biome is very important because is the most threatened terrestrial environment by the human intervention. In this kind of environment only survive the species adapted to the restriction in the availability of nutrients and water. All the tropical dry forest plants and the animals that live among them had developed evolutive adaptations in order to live in conditions of very less food and water than at the rainforest. Those conditions had enforced plants to lose their leaves during drought, as a way to avoid the lose of essential water; and animals to require large territories to ensure the enough supply of food in an adverse and no plenty region.
The springs are less frequent, and most of them diminish their flow, or even becomes dry, as drought arrives; but their provision of pristine water injects life to the dry forest, and they reload at the rainy season. Its geographic location and low altitude optimize the sunlight conditions for the plant photosynthesis, with which dry forests also contribute to the fixation of the carbon present in the atmosphere, but in lesser grade than the rainy forests due to the less density of the forest and the fact of being deciduous (As with the photosynthesis valuable water will be lost by transpiration, this is totally restricted with the leaves fall).
Tropical Dry Forest Animals
Despite the restrictions in water and resources, the tropical dry forest is the 2nd in biodiversity below the rain forest, and is inhabitated by a great amount of animals, from which some of the most representatives that can be seen are the Black Iguana (Ctenosaura similis), the previously mentioned Burrowing Toad (Rhinophrynus dorsalis), the White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) the Nine-banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus), the Variegated Squirrel (Sciurus variegatoides), the Paca (Agouti paca), the Agouti (Dasyprocta punctata), the Howler Monkey (Alouatta palliata), the Kinkajou (Potos flavus) and the White-nosed Coati (Nasua narica).
The nice White-throated Magpie-Jay (Calocitta formosa) and the Turquoise-browed Motmot (Eumomota superciliosa) are two very gorgeous and conspicuous birds whose habitat is exclusively the dry forest. But this kind of forest also offers another very good opportunities for bird watching: parrots like the Orange-chinned Parakeet (Brotogeris jugularis), the Red-lored Parrot (Amazona autumnalis), the White-fronted Parrot (Amazona albifrons) or the Orange-fronted Parakeet (Aratinga canicularis), humming birds like the Cinnamon Hummingbird (Amazilia rutila), tanager as the Blue-gray Tanager (Traupis episcopus), the Violaceous Trogon (Trogon violaceus), the Blue-crowned Motmot (Momotus momota) or the Squirrel Cukoo (Piaya cayana) and the no less amazing Long-tailed Manakin (Chiroxiphia linearis). There are also another kind of brids like the Ringed Kingfisher (Megaceryle torquata), or the Collared Aracari (Pteroglossus torquatus), the Pale-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus guatemalensis), doves like the White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica). And the most common like the Clay-colored Robin (Turdus grayi), which is the national bird of Costa Rica ("Yigüirro"), the boisterous Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus) or the nocturnal Common Pauraque (Nyctidromus albicollis).
Tropical Dry Forest Plants
This forest features two different layer of trees, one of shrubs and the ground plants layer; each of them have different populations of animals and plants adapted to living at its respective place.
The understorey layer is constituted by trees (mainly from Rubiaceae family) from 10 to 20 m of height, with narrow trunks and light canopies. The shrub layer have plants from 2 to 5 m of height, with multiple stems and thorns. There is few presence of epiphytes, and the most predominant are the bromeliads and cacti. Woody lianas are common. The tree canopy set, which are no touching among them does not restricts the incidence of solar light to the ground, so the lower plants and shrubs can propagate in a more easy way than if at other forest kind.
The seed dispersal role of some tropical dry forest animals is a strong link between the ecosystem members, in such a way that the seeds of each fruit eaten and carried by the monkeys or birds have the chance to be "delivered" far away from its producer plant, because of dropping or liberating them when the digestion process completes, incrementing the survival possibilities of that plant and its dispersion potential as well. When this relation is broken, the surviving of the vegetal specie is in serious risk. That is the case of the Guanacaste tree (Enterolobium cyclocarpum), that has been left without its natural seed dispersal agent, and is in extinction danger.
Significance and Value of the Dry Forest
We must save the tropical dry forest because of its already cited vulnerability, the threats that faces and its specialized biodiversity. From the Biology point of view, it can be stated five main reasons to strive in its restoration and conservancy (5):
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