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Flora and Fauna of Costa Rica

Costa Rica is one of the biologically wealthiest nations in the world.  While the country has only about 0.25% of the world’s landmass, it contains almost 5% of the world’s biodiversity.  Costa Rica, which means “Rich Coast”, has the largest percentage of protected areas in the world.  From the forested mountains to the coral reefs off both coasts, this small country treasures an incomparable diversity of flora and fauna.

Flora in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has an incredible abundance of flora which is protected by a large system of national parks.  It boasts more than 9000 species of flowering plants and about 800 species of ferns, as well as many other species which are spread throughout the country.

Costa Rica’s rainforests are abundant and popular.  Being an extremely rapid ecosystem, the competition among species of flora in these forests is quite intense.  Trees can grow up to 100 feet (30 meters) tall, absorbing up to 90% of the forest’s photosynthesis.
Underneath these enormous wonders of nature, there are thousands of species of smaller trees.

All flora species survive in the rainforest by adapting.  Canopy trees adapt by reaching to the crowning heights, while bromeliads adapt by holding rainwater and decomposing matter into food.  Vines adapt by hanging to trees and working their way up. 

Costa Rica’s dry forests do not contain as many plants, but their exotic beauty is also worth to be seen.  Trees are short and robust, and during the dry season (November to March), oaks and poro trees substitute their leaves with beautiful and colorful flowers. 

Apart from the tropical rainforest and dry forest, the mangrove swamps are also filled with a great variety of flora.  They grow in the border between the land and the ocean and produce algae and other organisms.  Mangroves are essential for the preservation of species that only flourish in these unique and salty conditions. 

For such a small country, flora in Costa Rica is incredibly diverse.  This region is home to many of the world’s endangered species of flora and even to some species that still haven’t been discovered.  Hence the importance of protecting Costa Rica’s different ecosystems.

Fauna in Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s fauna is rich and abundant and has made this country one of the most admired territories on the planet.  Over 200 species of mammals, 850 species of birds, 220 species of reptiles, 200 species of amphibians and over 300.000 species of insects inhabit these lands.

Costa Rica supports such an enormous variety of wildlife, due in large part to its geographic position between the North and South American continents, its climate and its wide variety of habitats.

Many tourist activities are performed in perfect harmony with animals.  The mountains are ideal spots for the observation of birds.  The best places for bird watching in Costa Rica include Monteverde, Braulio Carrillo National Park and Osa Península. 
Almost any place in the country is a good place to see hummingbirds, doves, sloths, and, in some places, snakes and lizards that may surprise you.  Large fauna, such as tapir, jaguar and deer are rarely encountered, as they are both elusive and tied to now-fragmented undisturbed habitats.

On the coasts, visitors can witness the arrival of nesting turtles – a magnificent demonstration of life itself.  Tortuguero National Park is recognized for the annual nesting of the endangered green turtle and is the most important nesting site for the species. Giant leatherback, hawksbill, and loggerhead turtles also nest there.

Then there are all the creatures that are harder to spot: bees, ants, moths, butterflies, lantern flies, among others.  Costa Rica hosts 1,251 species of butterflies and at least 8,000 species of moths. Butterflies and moths are common year round but are more present during Costa Rica’s rainy season.

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