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Costa Rica Tropical Rainforest

The world's highest biodiversity per area unit

Costa Rica Tropical Rainforest. See more pictures in Gallery. Red Eye Tree Frog. Rainforest Frogs of Costa Rica  The tropical rainforest biome is the terrestrial environment with the most plenty of animal and plant (quantity and diversity) on earth (1); and any rainforest animal, plant or tree live in mutual interdependency as part of a food web, which is in turn part of a well-established ecological relationship network among them. Costa Rica rainforest (ranking first in the world in biodiversity per area unit) is a very astounding magical nature sanctuary with abundance of shapes, colors, sounds, and aromas; inhabited by a sort of animals like exotic birds, colorful butterflies, tree frogs, poison dart frogs, monkeys and even stealthy and elusive felines; living among each plant, tree, vine, liana, fern and flower.
The rainforest is divided into five different layers (in downward order: the emergent, canopy, understorey, shrub and ground), each with particular plants and animals, adapted for living in that specific area. Costa Rica rainforest is characterized for having plenty of pristine rivers and springs everywhere, as well as waterfalls at the uneven relief.

In order to clarify a generalized confusion of terms about ecosystems classification, for a practical approach the Tropical Rainforest Biome, or simply the rainforest, can be considered as constituted by the Holdridge Life Zones in the base altitudinal belt (up to 1,000 m ASL) and rainfall rates over 2,000 mm/year, which are the Tropical Moist Forest (bh-T), the Tropical Wet Forest (bmh-T) and their transitional variants.

(En Español: Bosque Tropical Lluvioso   ||   Also learn about Costa Rica Tropical Dry Forest)

Costa Rica Tropical Rainforest Map Costa Rica Tropical Rainforest Facts
Synonyms: Neotropical Rainforest, Tropical Rain Forest, Tropical Broadleaf Evergreen Forest.
Distribution: Northern, Caribbean and Central & Southern Pacific lowlands of Costa Rica as main regions. There are very much fragmented areas at the base of ranges (see map →).
Availability of resources: Plentiful.
Threats: Deforestation, mining, loss of territory by unsustainable human development, fragmentation, pollution, animal hunting and capture.
Experience it!: Arenal Eco Zoo, El Castillo de San Ramón (Arenal Volcano area), Arenal Oasis EcoLodge (La Fortuna, San Carlos); Maquenque EcoLodge and La Laguna del Lagarto Lodge Boca Tapada, San Carlos; Golfo Dulce Lodge and Esquinas Lodge (Golfito, Puntarenas); Sarapiquí, Tortuguero.
Conservancy guidelines: Ensure the proper dispose of wastes, do not feed wild animals and DO NOT take out animals nor plants from their natural environment.
Parameters as Holdridge Life Zone:.
     Keys: bh-T, bmh-T
     Area: About 24,000 Km²; 47% of country. (2)
     Altitude: 0-1,000 m ASL (3,280.8 feet).
     Rainfall: 2,000-6,000 mm/year. (3)
     Temperature: Max: 91.4ºF (33ºC), Min: 71.6ºF (22ºC) (Annual averages). (3)
     Dry Season: 0 - 2 months.
     Canopy Height: 40-60 m.
     Vegetation: Evergreen.
     Forest Layers: 5 (3 of trees).
     Concentration: Very High density.
     Epiphytes: Plenty.

  • The highest biodiversity density of terrestrial environments on Earth.
  • Highest biodiversity in Costa Rica.
  • The most extended terrestrial environment in Costa Rica, although is the most fragmented by human action.
  • Its existence is due to the almost continue rainfalls in the local climate, which is caused by the geographical location and the global climatic conditions (like the Caribbean storms or the InterTropical Convergence Zone).
  • Broadleaf evergreen vegetation as adaption to no seasonal highest rainfall rate along the year.
  • 5 layers: three layers of trees (emergent, canopy and understorey), the shrub layer and the ground layer.
  • The year 2011 has been declared the International Year of Forests by the United Nations.

Costa Rica tropical rainforest showing lush vegetation and a toucan. Tropical rainforest in Costa Rica has plentiful pristine water springs. Howler Monkey (Alouatta palliata) feeding on "Guarumo" tree leaves. Howler Monkey (Alouatta palliata) calling, as seen during a canopy tour. Lush vegetation of tropical rainforest. The Rainbow-billed Toucan sighted at rainforest. Fortuna Waterfall Tour leads you into tropical rainforest. Rainforest flower near Fortuna Waterfall top. The Arenal Volcano's flanks full of lush rainforest. The Chestnut-mandibled Toucan sighted into vegetation. Rainforest view from Arenal Volcano Vantage Point. There is a tree sanctuary on Arenal Volcano flanks. The shaded and wet world under that green canopy cover. Heliconius butterfly exhibits warning coloration.
© 2010 Olger Aragón, Foto Koky, La Fortuna de San Carlos.
The rainforest surrounding one of Arenal Volcano's lakes. An easy to see rainforest animal: The Green Basilisk. The water of rainfalls and Arenal Volcano create this lake. Red Eye Tree Frog, a symbol of tropical rainforest.
© 2010 Olger Aragón, Foto Koky, La Fortuna de San Carlos.
A pristine water ecosystem in Arenal Volcano's lakes. Heliconia flower (Calathea crotalifera). Sublime beauty of aquatic flora & fauna at volcano lake. Tropical rainforest Heliconia flower (Costus pulverulentus). Canopy Tours show you the Costa Rica tropical rainforest. Lianas, ferns and palms are common at rainforest. Tropical rainforest heliconia flower. Costa Rica tropical rainforest at Fortuna Waterfall Tour. Pristine water spring into rainforest. This Green Basilisk can run upright over the water surface!
Costa Rica Tropical Rainforest

Tropical Rainforest of Costa Rica: Main Features

 Rainforest biomes are very important at a world level (basically a biome is a set of similar ecosystems) because is home of two thirds of all species of animals and plants on Earth. Even the tropical rainforest is home to more species than all other biomes of our planet combined! Even more, hundreds of millions of new species of plants, insects, and microorganisms are waiting to be cataloged. Its location near the equator optimize the conditions for the plants photosynthesis, causing this way that tropical rainforests fixate a great amount of carbon dioxide, taking it from the atmosphere into the vegetal tissues, and liberate another great amount of oxygen back to the atmosphere, so they are worthy of being considered as the lungs of Earth. Costa Rica rainforest features plenty of rivers and springs with pristine water distributed along the region, which form waterfalls where the terrain is uneven (a great part of the country), and flow superficially as the manifestation of considerable underground aquifers to which help in supplying.

Tropical Rainforest Animals

Among the most representative examples of rainforest fauna that can be seen are the Green Basilisk (Basiliscus plumifrons), the Green Iguana (Iguana iguana), the Two-toed (Choloepus hoffmanni) & Three-toed (Bradypus variegatus) Sloth, the Blue Morpho Butterfly (Morpho peleides), the Poison Dart Frog (Oophaga pumilio), the Red Eye Tree Frog (Agalychnis callidryas), the Howler Monkey (Alouatta palliata) and the White-nosed Coati (Nasua narica).

Jaguar, the greater American feline Picturesque, elusive for sighting, but betrayed by their footprints; felines are the agile predators of the forests: the Jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi), the Puma (Puma concolor), the Margay (Leopardus wiedii), the Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) and the Jaguar (Panthera onca). This last is the greater of America and is endowed with the most powerful mandible among felines of the world.

Rain forest provides bird watching delights: exotic birds like the colorful Keel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus), the Chestnut-mandibled Toucan (Ramphastos swainsonii), and many others like parrots, humming birds, tanagers, honeycreepers, robins, trogons, etc; and you can see some of them at their habitat, with the canopy tour or while in the Costa Rica tour operator activities, specially the bird watching tour trails. Besides in these nature expeditions it is possible to see exotic and colorful rainforest frogs as well as massive, powerful and ferocious reptiles as the American Crocodile (Crocodilus acutus), or the Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus) which is less sized as well as unharmful to people; and into the Costa Rican rainforest butterflies diversity, is included the very special Blue Morpho Butterfly, the Owl Butterfly (Caligo eurilochus sulanus) and all the range of Heliconius butterflies, among others.

Tropical Rainforest Plants

The Tropical Rain Forest can be divided in five different layers which are the ground, the shrub, the understorey (medium height trees), the canopy (the cover of predominant population) and the emergent layer (isolated trees that grow over canopy layer). Although normally the ground levels are the only which are accessed by humans without problems, by means of specialized technology is possible to reach the high environment of the forests in a viable way. Such is the case of "Canopy Tours", as their name implies are precisely tours throughout the canopy and understorey forest layers, and allows people to experience and feel by moments, as being part of the forest itself, thanks to making more accessible its highest layers.

The dominant rainforest tree is tall, evergreen with leafy canopy whose upper ceiling shelter a great variety of epiphytes: orchids, bromeliads, mosses, and lichens. The set of canopies restricts the sunlight at the ground level, so the plants cannot grow with a distribution of total density, and there is space which is used by animals (and people requiring that) to walk through.

Bromeliads play the fundamental role as elevated water containers at the canopy and overground rainforest ecosystem layers, because of their rigid leaves concentrically arranged at their convergent wide bases, serving as natural water dispensers for each thirsty rainforest animal inhabiting there (any bird, monkey or sloth looking for water), avoiding in this way the exposure to ground predators.

Evolutive Adaptations and Interdependencies

Drip tip in a leaf One of the most important adaptation that has been establish in the plants of the rainforest is the drainage capability of the leaves, to get free as soon as possible of the cover of moisture excess, which can interrupt the normal activity of the photosynthesis. This is achieved by means of a specialized structural shape: the "drip tip", which is a sharp and often a long point at the end of leaves: water runs by gravity along the leaf, converges and collects at the tip, and finally drips from there. This way, drip tips help the leaves to ensure to dry much faster than they would if they had rounded shapes, working as drainage triggerers each time water accumulates.(4) Water repelling leaf Besides of this adaptation, there is another way to avoid the moisture cover by means of a wax-like water repelling surface in the leaf, which causes any water drop to slide down leaving it absolutely dry (in an analogous way as the normal behaviour of mercury drops). The two drainage systems are present independently, or in some cases, both are present in the same leaf.

At each of the five different layers of the tropical rain forest there has been established different populations of plants and animals, adapted for live in their particular and proper area according to the resources and conditions presented. As example the bromeliads (thanks to its water container) are useful as the home for insects and frogs while in their metamorphosis aquatic phase. This fact has caused that frogs emerging from tadpoles living in the water stored have evolved specialized body shapes to fit into the narrow spaces among the bromeliad leaves.

Rainforest animal seeds dispersion effect is another great link that engages most of the ecosystem members, this way the seeds of each fruit eat and carried by some monkeys or birds have the possibility of being left far from its producer plant, by dropping or carrying them, increasing that plant survival and spreading potential. About this, there is the interesting fact that the dropped seeds trace left by rainforest monkeys to their step through the forest are clues that allows us to follow them and be able to see them; this is of great help in the case of the Howler Monkey (Alouatta palliata), because despite its name and loud call, at most time is a very silent rainforest animal.

A very conspicuous phenomenon happening in some rain forest animal cases: evolution has created colorful patterns that play the function of being a very gorgeous warning signal of bad taste or being a dangerous (even deadly) snack, in order to avoid this way to be devoured by the great number of potential predators. That is called aposematic coloration and is present in the poison dart frog and some butterfly groups (as you can witness with the pictures). Even more, due to evolutive adaptations the butterfly coloration has produced that some inoffensive butterfly species mimics the color patterns the dangerous ones so accurately that are considered by predators into the avoiding group (Müllerian mimicry). The best available example of this can be seen in the Heliconius butterfly, and you can admire it at any butterfly garden.

A Natural Treasure to Value and Care for

We must save the tropical rainforest because it is a key part in maintaining the nature equilibrium at planet level, which is in danger because of the intervention of increasing human's wastes & consumption. These forests play an important role in the water cycle because them give great help with the natural maintenance and the water feed of the aquifers, which supply the growing needs of the society; without them the rainfall water is not well filtered into the ground and flows on the surface causing floods. Besides, it was the kind of forest that originally covered the most of the Costa Rican ground, and it would be doing so if humans hadn't established their settlements. Indeed we must strive for any forest conservation and protection right now that finally the real trouble of global warming with all its catastrophic consequences for all if is not stopped and controlled. Furthermore, besides its contribution with Earth's illnesses cure, tropical rainforest provide us scientific knowledge, spiritual and physical health, and indispensable pristine air and water as well. This is the reason for the local protected areas, as many experts mention, "Costa Ricans are very proud of their national park system, and this pride can only be strengthened as more and more people visit the parks. The long-term effects of these feelings are likely to be critical to the success of protecting tropical rain forests".(5)

Tropical Rainforest Books

This is a selection of recommended and suggested books for further reading and learning about Costa Rica Tropical Rainforest, flora and fauna; which are available for look at their reader reviews and buying online if needed (* As a form to support this website, we are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites).

Notes & References:
Holzman, B. A. (2008). Tropical Forest Biomes. Greenwood Guides to Biomes of the World. Greenwood Press.
Holdridge, L. R.; Genkre, W. C.; Hatheway, W. H.; Liang, T.; & Tosi; J. A., Jr. (1971). Forest environments in tropical life zones: A pilot study. Pergamon Press.
(Data for Tropical Moist and Wet Forests was added).
From annual averages of weather data at several sites along more than 10 years previous to 2010. Instituto Meteorológico Nacional (Costa Rica National Weather Institute).
Allaby, M. (2006). Tropical Forests. (Biomes of the Earth). Chelsea House.
Forsyth, A. & Miyata, K. (1987). Tropical Nature: Life and Death in the Rain Forests of Central and South America . Charles Scribner's Sons.
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