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Biodiversity Conservation in Costa Rica

Biodiversity Conservation in Costa Rica: Learning the Lessons in a Seasonal Dry Forest

Gordon W. Frankie
Alfonso Mata
S. Bradleigh Vinson
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: 1
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Biodiversity Conservation in Costa Rica
    Book Description:

    The beautiful tropical dry forest of northwest Costa Rica, with its highly seasonal rainfall and diversely vegetated landscape, is disappearing even more rapidly than Costa Rica's better-known rain forest, primarily because it has been easier to convert to agriculture. This book, based on more than thirty years of study, offers the first comprehensive look at the ecology, biodiversity, and conservation status of this endangered and fragile region. The contributors, from Costa Rica, Britain, Mexico, and the United States, and representing the fields of ecology, environmental education, policy, and the law, examine the major plant and animal groups living in the dry forest and present the first technical evaluation of Costa Rica's conservation efforts. As they assess the status of their area of specialty in the dry forest, the contributors also look beyond this particular region to show how its plants and animals are ecologically and evolutionarily connected to other geographic areas in Costa Rica and Central America. Their chapters cover topics such as watershed and coastal management, plant phenology, pollination, insects, birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. They also consider the socioeconomic, policy, legal, and political aspects of biodiversity conservation, giving the volume a wide-ranging perspective and making a unique contribution to our knowledge of the tropical dry forest. The book concludes with an important synthesis of the contributors' recommendations on future directions, policies, and actions that will better conserve biodiversity in Costa Rica and other neotropical forests as well.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93777-2
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)
    Alfonso Mata and Jaime Echeverría

    The chorotega region in northwestern Costa Rica is one of the most important areas of this republic; it covers primarily the Tempisque River Basin (TRB), Nicoya Peninsula, and other nearby lands (see map 1.1). The country’s only seasonal dry forest is located here. Enjoying a climate of contrasts, varied geological formations, very attractive natural scenic areas, and a rich cultural heritage, the Chorotega region is perhaps the second most important economic region in the country, after the Central Valley (Mata and Blanco 1994), where the capital city of San José is located. Politically, this area constitutes the province of Guanacaste,...

  5. Part I. Biodiversity and Ecological Studies

    • Section A. Costa Rican Dry Forest

      • CHAPTER 2 Flowering Phenology and Pollination Systems Diversity in the Seasonal Dry Forest
        (pp. 17-29)
        Gordon W. Frankie, William A. Haber, S. Bradleigh Vinson, Kamaljit S. Bawa, Peter S. Ronchi and Nelson Zamora

        When comparing Neotropical life zones, one of the first generalizations to emerge is that seasonal dry forests have lower species diversity than wetter or more aseasonal life zones (Janzen 1983; Bullock et al. 1995). This pattern is easily recognized. The species-level count, however, is only one aspect of a much larger picture of biodiversity. Noss and Cooperrider (1994: 5) provide a useful definition of biodiversity that is relevant to this discussion: “Biodiversity is the variety of life and its processes. It includes the variety of living organisms, the genetic differences among them, the communities and ecosystems in which they occur,...

      • CHAPTER 3 Breeding Structure of Neotropical Dry-Forest Tree Species in Fragmented Landscapes
        (pp. 30-37)
        James L. Hamrick and Victoria J. Apsit

        Landscapes that once featured continuously distributed, seasonal dry tropical forests are now characterized in much of Central America by a matrix of pastures and agricultural lands punctuated by occasional patches of remnant forest, secondary forests, and narrow riparian forest corridors. Fragmentation of these once continuous forests could adversely affect several aspects of the biology of tropical dry-forest tree species (Harris 1984; Bierregaard et al. 1992). In particular, changes in pollinator densities and behavior may disrupt or highly modify normal breeding patterns in remnant populations (e.g., Frankie et al. 1997). Such changes in breeding patterns can, in turn, modify levels and...

      • CHAPTER 4 Impact of Global Changes on the Reproductive Biology of Trees in Tropical Dry Forests
        (pp. 38-47)
        Kamaljit S. Bawa

        The most spectacular feature of tropical dry forests of Guanacaste is perhaps the mass flowering of many tree species during the dry season. As the dry season begins toward the end of December, a number of species start to bloom, displaying flowers of various shapes, sizes, and colors in the leafless canopy until the end of April (Janzen 1967; Frankie et al. 1974). The seasonal progression of flowering of various species is also mirrored in the daily rhythms, as flowers of various species start opening at dawn, progress through the morning, and then are replaced by nocturnally flowering species at...

        (pp. 48-66)
        Kathryn E. Stoner and Robert M. Timm

        Mesoamerica contains some of the world’s most diverse forests. It has at least 20 major life zones, based on variations of temperature and precipitation that can be broadly summarized in five tropical forest types—dry forest, wet forest, montane forest, coniferous forest, and mangrove swamp (Holdridge et al. 1971). When the Spaniards arrived in the New World, there were perhaps 550,000 km² of dry forest on the Pacific side of lowland tropical Mesoamerica. This dry forest occupied as much or more of the Mesoamerican lowlands as did wet forests. Unfortunately, no habitat type in Mesoamerica has been more influenced by...

      • CHAPTER 6 The Conservation Values of Bees and Ants in the Costa Rican Dry Forest
        (pp. 67-79)
        S. Bradleigh Vinson, Sean T. O’Keefe and Gordon W. Frankie

        Over the past 30 years of solitary-bee studies in the Costa Rican dry forest we have observed a steady decline in native solitary-bee populations. In 1972 bee diversity was surveyed from a small population of the fabaceous treeAndira inermis, at a site just south of the town limits of Liberia (see maps in chapter 1). At that time about 70 species were collected (Frankie et al. 1976). In 1989 we casually sampled bees again from severalA. inermistrees in the vicinity of Liberia and found only 37 species (Vinson et al. 1993). Another sampling at the original Liberia...

      • CHAPTER 7 Ecology of Dry-Forest Wildland Insects in the Area de Conservación Guanacaste
        (pp. 80-96)
        Daniel H. Janzen

        Tropical dry forest (Murphy and Lugo 1986; Bullock et al. 1995) once occupied at least 60 percent of the forested tropics. Today, it is largely eliminated (Janzen 1988a). Where present, it is almost entirely in some complex state of incomplete and iterative secondary succession (e.g., Janzen 1974a, 1986a,b, 1988b,c, 1990, 2002; Holl 1999; Holl and Kappelle 1999; Toh et al. 1999). The elimination of tropical dry forest is largely due to its ease of removal and perturbation by timber mining and human-facilitated fire and its comparative ease of occupation by humans engaged in agriculture and their domesticated animals and plants,...

    • Section B. Biotic Relationships with Other Costa Rican Forests

      • CHAPTER 8 Diversity, Migration, and Conservation of Butterflies in Northern Costa Rica
        (pp. 99-114)
        William A. Haber and Robert D. Stevenson

        Migration can be simply defined as a sustained, directional movement by an animal that takes it out of one habitat and into another (Dingle 1996), and this is the definition used here. It distinguishes migrating behavior from local movements within an animal’s home range that tend to be nonlinear, of short duration, and confined to a single habitat (Dingle 1996). Seasonal migration typically involves a two-way trip between habitats, exemplified by the annual back-and-forth flights of Neotropical migrant songbirds between the North Temperate Zone and the tropics (Levey 1994; Martin and Finch 1995). Two-way migration by individual butterflies occurs in...

        (pp. 115-125)
        Alfonso Mata

        Aquatic resources represent one of the most valuable and sought-after natural treasures, although in many areas of the planet they are deteriorating. Playing a key role in climatic, ecological, and biogeochemical processes, the terrestrial water cycle is being destroyed at alarming rates (Vorosmarty and Sahagian 2000). Human populations have already appropriated half of the accessible global freshwater runoff, and this share will continue to rise to as much as 70 percent by the year 2025 if these populations continue to grow as expected (Postel et al. 1996; Pringle 2000). In Costa Rica these resources are still abundant in regions such...

      • CHAPTER 10 Where the Dry Forest Feeds the Sea: THE GULF OF NICOYA ESTUARY
        (pp. 126-135)
        José A. Vargas and Alfonso Mata

        The gulf of nicoya (gn) is an estuary located in the northwestern part of the Pacific coast of Costa Rica (10° N, 85° W). The extensive hydrological connection between the GN and watersheds draining into it gives rise to one of the most prominent ecological and geographical systems of Costa Rica (maps 1.1 and 1.2 in chapter 1; chapter 9). Half of this large estuarine-terrestrial basin consists of the Tempisque River Basin (TRB), with a variety of ecological, cultural, and socioeconomic resources, some of them conflicting. If the Tárcoles River watershed, which drains the lower sector of the GN, is...

      • CHAPTER 11 Mangrove Forests under Dry Seasonal Climates in Costa Rica
        (pp. 136-144)
        Jorge A. Jiménez

        Along the 6,600-km coastline of Central America, mangrove forests are a distinctive element in the landscape. More than 340,000 ha of mangroves exist along the Pacific coast, and 225,000 ha are found on the Caribbean coast of the isthmus. These forests represent around 7 percent of Central America’s natural forest coverage and 8 percent of the world’s mangroves (CCAD 1998).

        More than 20 percent of the human population of Central America lives near coastal areas, and more than 200,000 people directly depend on coastal fishery industries in Central America (CCAD 1998). Mangrove forests have, therefore, high socioeconomic relevance in the...

    • Section C. Biotic Relationships with Other Geographical Areas

      • CHAPTER 12 Geographical Distribution, Ecology, and Conservation Status of Costa Rican Dry-Forest Avifauna
        (pp. 147-159)
        Gilbert Barrantes and Julio E. Sánchez

        In costa rica the dry forest covers the Santa Elena Peninsula and adjacent areas and some small areas around the Gulf of Nicoya (Slud 1980; Gómez 1986; see maps in chapter 1). Large tracts of semideciduous forest also occur below 500 m in the northwest of Costa Rica. For the purpose of this chapter, we consider deciduous, semideciduous, and other associated habitats as the dry-forest ecosystem. The ecosystem includes both terrestrial and aquatic habitats. Deciduous and riparian forests and savanna are the most extensive terrestrial habitats, and mangroves, mudflats, lagoons, and swamps are the most common aquatic habitats. Mangroves and...

      • CHAPTER 13 An Ultrasonically Silent Night: THE TROPICAL DRY FOREST WITHOUT BATS
        (pp. 160-176)
        Richard K. LaVal

        Without bats, in their varied roles as pollinators of commercially important trees, seed dispersers critical for forest succession, and consummate predators of nocturnal insects, the tropical dry-forest life zone would be a vastly different place. Despite the unquestioned importance of these common mammals, few scientific papers have dealt specifically with bat conservation until very recently. Fenton (1997) has clarified the relationship between recent advances in bat biology and bat conservation, and a book edited by Kunz and Racey (1998) addresses bat conservation issues worldwide. Ceballos (1995) discusses vertebrate conservation in the dry forest, with special emphasis on the importance of...

      • CHAPTER 14 Biodiversity and Conservation of Mesoamerican Dry-Forest Herpetofauna
        (pp. 177-193)
        Mahmood Sasa and Federico Bolaños

        The herpetofauna of Mesoamerica (defined as the region running south from about central Mexico through Panama) is undoubtedly one of the richest and most complex vertebrate faunas of the New World. It involves more than 210 genera, comprising approximately 693 species of reptiles and 598 species of amphibians. Such high diversity results from the divergence of species that evolvedin situin Mesoamerica, as well as from the interchange of species between North and South America (Duellman 1966; Savage 1966).

        Based on the distribution of reptiles and amphibians in Mesoamerica, Duellman (1966) recognized five major ecological assemblages: humid tropical, humid...

        (pp. 194-209)
        James R. Spotila and Frank V. Paladino

        The edge of the sea marks one boundary of the tropical dry forest in Costa Rica. Just as the ocean draws Costa Ricans and foreigners to vacation spots along the Pacific coast in the summer, the beaches are a magnet for biologists, conservationists, developers, and politicians. This is because the beaches are critical habitat for all these people and a focal point for one of the greatest dramas in conservation at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Biologists come to study sea turtles and other exotic flora and fauna, conservationists come to save species from extinction, developers come with international...

      • CHAPTER 16 Prospects for Circa Situm Tree Conservation in Mesoamerican Dry-Forest Agro-Ecosystems
        (pp. 210-226)
        David H. Boshier, James E. Gordon and Adrian J. Barrance

        Dry forest once stretched almost continuously along the Mesoamerican (Central American/Mexican) Pacific coast, from Sonora in Mexico to Guanacaste in Costa Rica (area of 550,000 km²). Conditions suitable for dry forest also exist on the Yucatan Peninsula, the coast of the Mexican states of Puebla and Tamaulipas, with significant inland areas in dry valleys (e.g., Motagua Valley, Guatemala) throughout the region (see Graham and Dilcher 1995 and Murphy and Lugo 1995 for the distribution and origins of this forest type). Human preference for the seasonally dry tropical environment (Murphy and Lugo 1995) and the ease of clearing its vegetation have,...

  6. Part II. Transferring Biodiversity Knowledge into Action:: The Record

    • CHAPTER 17 Biodiversity Inventories in Costa Rica and Their Application to Conservation
      (pp. 229-236)
      Paul Hanson

      Biodiversity inventorying and monitoring provide essential information used by many basic scientific disciplines as well as many applied sciences such as biotechnology, agriculture, fisheries, and conservation. Most inventorying and monitoring have involved organisms that are relatively well known taxonomically—for example, vertebrates and vascular plants. Yet the poorly known groups of organisms, such as invertebrates and fungi, constitute the majority of the species. Conservation decisions based on data for a limited range of organisms having relatively few species can be misleading (Prendergast et al. 1993). Moreover, poorly known groups of organisms tend to be smaller in size and to have...

      (pp. 237-246)
      Gregory A. Giusti

      Editor’s note:This chapter represents the only contribution from an author who has not worked directly in Costa Rica. The topic presented here pertains to collaboration, which is of great importance in implementing any conservation project. As editors, we wanted to include a model for collaboration that could be used universally in cases in which there was sufficient societal infrastructure. Greg Giusti’s model fits our need perfectly. It is based on years of work as a practicing cooperative extension specialist and collaboration moderator for the University of California.

      There can be no greater accomplishment for a resource professional than to...

    • CHAPTER 19 Conservation and Environmental Education in Rural Northwestern Costa Rica: LEARNING THE LESSONS OF A NONGOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATION
      (pp. 247-256)
      Gordon W. Frankie and S. Bradleigh Vinson

      It all started with fire! In the late 1970s members of our dry-forest research team were aware that wildfires were becoming common in our general study area between Cañas and Liberia and southwesterly to the Tempisque River in Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica (see maps 1.1 and 1.2 in chapter 1). We also had reason to believe that the risk of fire would increase through time and endanger the remaining plants and wildlife throughout the area. Reasons for our concern included the following. Fire was not a natural phenomenon in the dry forest, and the biota was not adapted to cope...

    • CHAPTER 20 The Media and Biodiversity Conservation
      (pp. 257-265)
      Gilda Aburto

      For hundreds of years, humans have been in constant battle over natural resources, some for their exploitation and others for their protection and preservation for the future. One of the first people in North America—if not the first—to raise their voice in favor of defending wildlife territories was the legendary John Muir (Tolan 1990), known as the “Father of the National Parks.” For years he traveled through the impressive valleys and mountains of the United States, the forests and glaciers of Alaska, identifying species and marveling at the natural beauty of these wildlands. He also observed how these...

    • CHAPTER 21 Threats to the Conservation of Tropical Dry Forest in Costa Rica
      (pp. 266-280)
      Mauricio Quesada and Kathryn E. Stoner

      Approximately 550,000 km² of tropical dry forest covered the Pacific coast of Mesoamerica at the time that the Spaniards arrived. Today less than 2 percent of this forest remains (Janzen 1988), mostly in Mexico (Trejo and Dirzo 2000). It has been estimated that the only protected sites of tropical dry forest in Mesoamerica that are large enough to possibly sustain dry-forest ecosystems are Parque Nacional Santa Rosa and Parque Nacional Palo Verde in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, and the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve in Jalisco, Mexico (Hartshorn 1988).

      Tropical dry forests in Costa Rica have almost disappeared. The total area of original...

    • CHAPTER 22 Environmental Law of Costa Rica: DEVELOPMENT AND ENFORCEMENT
      (pp. 281-288)
      Roxana Salazar

      Over the past 20 years, Costa Rica has kept pace with the evolution of environmental policy in the Central American region and the Caribbean, developing a fairly complete legal frame and, in general, a good set of policies. However, Costa Rica has also followed the general global trend, despite the importance that environmental issues have gained, by allowing the destruction of biodiversity to continue at an accelerated pace (see chapters 7, 12, 15, 21, and 23). Multiple declarations and agreements at the international level have not succeeded in stopping this worldwide destruction, as has been recognized by world authorities who...

    • CHAPTER 23 Dispute over the Protection of the Environment in Costa Rica
      (pp. 289-298)
      Julio Alberto Bustos

      Although there are many laws for the protection of the environment, there is also incongruity among them.

      The existence of a law for practically every environmental problem (forestry law, water law, biodiversity law, and so on) has led to an entanglement of laws that are often redundant, contradictory, and ambiguous and thus hinder cooperation between institutions and limit effective action. From its independence in 1821, Costa Rica has passed more than 19,000 laws for a country of fewer than 4 million inhabitants. More than 8,000 laws are currently in force, taking into consideration the abolition of some of these laws....

    • CHAPTER 24 The Policy Context for Conservation in Costa Rica: MODEL OR MUDDLE?
      (pp. 299-310)
      Katrina Brandon

      Worldwide, a debate is under way over whether we can protect biodiversityin situ, whether we should bother to try, and whether these efforts should include any areas that limit human uses. Critics have claimed that protected areas are hard to manage and therefore we should not even try, that they are too small to make a difference, or that they are socially unfair and unjust (Brechin et al. 2002). Although these criticisms are mostly voiced by social scientists, alarmingly, some ecologists and policy makers, often those who work at levels far from the field, have echoed them (Sayer et...

    • CHAPTER 25 Conclusion and Recommendations
      (pp. 311-324)
      Gordon W. Frankie, Alfonso Mata and Katrina Brandon

      In order to survive, human beings must begin to consider the deterioration and destruction of natural resources as a capital loss, particularly for development and management options of future generations. Our choices are simple. Either we take care of our planet and its natural resources, or we continue to participate not only in our natural world’s progressive deterioration but also in our self-destruction. The fundamental issue is that of appropriate environmental management, or in other words, how people can interact responsibly with nature. A friendly relation, nondestructive but sustainable, is something thatmustbe accepted and adopted as a means...

  7. List of Contributors
    (pp. 325-326)
  8. INDEX
    (pp. 327-341)