Costa Rica 's 20,000 square-mile territory offers a great diversity of ecological zones, from sub-alpine dwarfed vegetation to rich rain forest, to beautiful tropical beaches. Cloud forests like the one at Monteverde are filled with plants which are specifically adapted to gather water and promote condensation and precipitation. These high, misty forests are responsible for Costa Rica 's rich water resources. Augmenting the water- gathering function of the trees themselves are epiphytes, plants which live on trees in order to have growing space or to better reach the light. Unlike parasites, epiphytes filter their own food from water, dust particles and organic matter accumulated around their roots. They add to the diversity of the forest by adapting themselves to conditions that are impossible for other plants. Costa Rica has 1100 different species of orchids, 95 percent of which are epiphytes. The 200 species of bromeliads, much more commonly seen than orchids, are also epiphytes. Epiphytes, vines and the treetops create a canopy which maintains the humidity inside the forest and provides a home for many small animals which never touch the ground.
The dry tropical forests of Guanacaste like those in Santa Rosa National Park feature huge deciduous trees that burst into bloom at the beginning of the dry season. The scarlet poro tree, the orange-red flame-of-the-forest, the purple jacaranda, the pink and white meadow oak and the yellow corteza amarilla are like huge bouquets on the landscape. Other plants flower during the rainy season, thus keeping active a large number of different pollinating insects and birds.
Six species of mangroves exist in Costa Rica 's Pacific saltwater swamps, forming a complex community with marine animals and plants.
The rain forests of the Pacific, like Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula , are some of the most complex ecological systems on the planet. They maintain similar species to those found in the Atlantic rain forests, and because of a short dry season, they also shelter some species common to dry forests.
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