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Location And General Description

Chirripó includes very humid, rainy and cloudy forests, as well as regions crowned by peaks and rocky massifs where cold swamps are found.

We find an extraordinary number of habitats, product of the differences in height, soil, climate and terrain, such as paramos, marshes, oak groves, madronales, the helechales (composed mostly of fern two meters high and by moss) and mixed forests. These cover most of their territory and include extensive oak groves whose branches remain loaded with epiphytic plants. Some of the most common species are white oak, aguacatillo, rose wrath, sweet cedar and tirrá.

More than 263 species of amphibians and reptiles have been observed, the most common being the lizard, the salamander and the anurans. Among the mammals we find the tapir, the puma, the jaguar, the white-headed, the ocelot, the cacomistle, the tolomuco and the breñero lion.

There are about 400 species of birds, among which stand out the quetzal, the crested eagle, the black guan, and the carpenter face.


The montane forests of Talamanca form an ecoregion of mountain forest that belongs to the biome of the humid tropical and subtropical broadleaf forests, according to the definition of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). It is located in Costa Rica and Panama, and includes the Guanacaste mountain range, Tilarán mountain range, Cordillera Central, and the Talamanca mountain range. The ecoregion covers an area of ​​16,300 km2 and comprises forests at an altitude of 750/1500 masl to 3000 masl and is composed of a variety of perennial species, such as Ocotea sp, Persea sp, Nectandra sp, and Phoebe sp from the Lauraceae family , as well as two endemic oak species, Quercus costaricensis and Quercus copeyensis. Almost 75% of the original forest cover remains intact, and 40% of the ecoregion is within protected areas. However, areas that do not have a protection regime are affected by increasing deforestation, caused by the development of agriculture, the conversion of forests into pastures for livestock, and the extraction of wood.

Central America: Costa Rica and western Panama: This humid montane forest located in the mountainous regions of Costa Rica and Panama is one of the most intact habitats in Central America. Steep slopes, remoteness and relatively cool temperatures have limited the impact of agriculture and human development in most of this area. This region is a habitat for the diversity of very floral and faunal species, many of which are endemic. More than 30% of the flora of the ecoregion, including more than 10,000 species of vascular plants and 4,000 non-vascular plants, are endemic in this area, as are a number of fauna species. Almost 75% of the original forest cover remains intact, with 40% protected by national and international parks (WWF). However, the clearing of forests for agricultural development and livestock pastures have begun to alter the unprotected habitat, as well as the harvesting of wood. Due to the similar distribution to the archipelago of these montane patches along the central mountain range, the beta diversity is high between mountains and ridges, as well as along a gradient of elevation.


The forest habitats of this ecoregion include the Atlantic slope of the tropical forest, the seasonally dry Pacific slope, but above all the evergreen forest, and “perpetually dripping cloud forest” on the mountaintops, above about 1500 m (Haber 2000). The high annual rainfall, the wind-blown fog and the frequent presence of clouds, probably the most outstanding characteristic of these montane forests, produce a dense and leafy forest with a broken canopy and a high diversity of species. Abundant epiphytes cover the branches of trees, and tree ferns are common. The dominant groups of the tree include the family of Lauraceae, especially in the northern section of the ecoregion, and endemic oaks (Quercus spp.), Especially in the south. The unique oak forest found in this ecoregion is characterized by majestic tall trees (up to 50 m high), strongly dominated by two species: Quercus costaricensis and Q. copeyensis, while Magnolia, Drymis and Weinmannia are also important elements of the tree. The undergrowth is characterized by the presence of several species of dwarf bamboo (Chusquea). The highest peaks and crests exposed to moisture-laden trade winds support an Elfin, or dwarf forest characterized by thick bryophyte mats that cover short, dense knotty trees (Haber 2000).

The separation of these “islands” from the highland habitat of other mountain ranges and their location on this land bridge between North and South America have fostered both the mixing of northern and southern species and the emergence of endemic species in all of them. the taxones. The surprising variety of vegetation types through gradients of steep elevation and between the diverse mountainous massifs of this ecoregion have produced a very high plant biodiversity (high beta diversity) (have 2000). The Cordillera de Talamanca alone is estimated to contain about 90 percent of the known flora of Costa Rica. The friendship international park, which contains a protected area in both countries, contains some 10,000 vascular and 4,000 non-vascular plant species, including several hundred endemic species of plants (Davis et al., 1997). Forests over 1200 m in the Monteverde reserve complex in Costa Rica in the northern Ecoregion support 1,708 plant species, including more than 440 tree species. This high richness is due in large part to its great diversity of orchids (291 species), ferns (175 species), and other epiphytes (having 2000). More than 30% of the flora of the Ecoregion and more than 50% of the high mountain flora of Costa Rica and western Panama is considered endemic to these areas (Davis et al., 1997).

Similarly, more than half of the avifauna of the highlands of Costa Rica and western Panama is endemic to this region (Stiles 1985). Almost 85% of the species with restricted geographical ranges depend on the forest; most of them are endemic species of the highlands of Costa Rica-Chiriqui (Stiles 1985). Endemicity among amphibians is also high (Young et al 1999), and at least seven small mammals are considered regional endemics (Palminteri et al., 1999, adapted from Reid 1997).

Earthquakes, volcanism and landslides (triggered by torrential rains or earthquakes) are the main natural disturbances that influence the assembled forest structure (Clark et al., 2000). Steep slopes and poor soils have made the ecoregion’s habitats some of the most intact in Central America. The friendship international park, one of the largest reserves in Central America, consists of more than 400,000 hectares of relatively intact montane forest. These larger blocks of intact forest are essential to preserve the remaining populations of harpy eagles (Arpaia harpyja) and protect endangered and endangered bird breeding sites endemic to the highland forests of this ecoregion, such as: resplendent Quetzal (Pharomacrus mocinno), three-wattled Bellbird (Procnias tricarunculata), peeled-necked umbrella (Cephalopterus glabricollis) and black guan (Chamaepetes unicolor). The first three of these birds migrate seasonally to lower elevations, demonstrating the importance of not only keeping the habitats intact in the highlands but also connecting them to neighboring middle and lower elevations intact. In fact, more than 65 (> 10%) of the birds found here migrate altitudinally (Stiles 1985).

The mid-Atlantic elevations also contain some of the rarest butterfly species in Central America and some of the highest species of butterflies in the world (DeVries 1987). The populations of crested eagle and painted parakeet were recently discovered at Cerro Hoya on the Azuero peninsula (thin 1985).

Actual State

The ecoregion of Talamanca still maintains almost 75% of its original forest cover (DGF 1989, ANAM [INRENARE] 1992), which is distributed irregularly over isolated mountain areas of the Tilarán and Talamanca mountain ranges. The largest block occurs in and around the Biosphere Reserve Friendship. Deforestation, even in the oak forests of the Talamanca highlands, has been proceeding since the 1950s at an “alarming” rate (Kappelle 1996). The endemic species of oak are also valued for their excellent properties to make charcoal, while rare species of trees such as Podocarpus are very sensitive to exploitation.

The high biological diversity and endemism of the mountainous Ecoregion of Talamanca (Stiles 1985; Delgado 1985; Davis et al., 1997), as well as its steep topography, have encouraged the Costa Rican and Panamanian governments to establish a series of reserves with different degrees of protection. A total of 40% of the Ecoregion is under strict protection, in national parks such as the friendship, Chirripo, Braulio Carrillo, volcano and corner of the old, and the complex of the Monteverde forest reserve. Like most of the protected areas in Mesoamerica (Boza 1996, Powell pers comm.), The mountain parks of the Talamanca forest are small, lack connection or planning, and do not represent the entire range of ecosystems needed to support migrants. altitudinal (Stiles and Skutch 1989) or respond to the possible effects of climate Change. For example, they do not allow the altitudinal movement of the species. Even friendship mainly protects highland habitats at more than 2,000 m, while the mid and low elevations of the Pacific slope are largely absent.

Types And Gravity Of Threats

Despite the steep slopes and poor soils of these forests, continued illegal logging, squatting and land clearing for livestock grazing are making small roads in the remaining large forest blocks, reducing connectivity between the blocks of habitat within the ecoregion and between it and the neighboring ecoregions. Kappelle (1996) cites the conversion of oak forests to pastures and croplands as the main cause of erosion in the highlands of Talamanca; the compaction by cattle of the soil on steep slopes exacerbates the problem, causing runoff and loss of water resources and soil.

While the montane forest of Talamanca is relatively well protected, the recent but drastic elimination of medium elevation habitats in the surrounding ecoregions has isolated highland reserves and made their populations vulnerable to genetic degradation. In addition, cloud forests are particularly sensitive to climate change (Pounds 1999), and their location on mountain tops leaves little chance of adapting to climate change. Many montane amphibians, such as the Golden Toad of Monteverde (Bufo periglenes), have disappeared from some or all of their ranges for reasons still undetermined by science (2000 pounds). Maintaining and restoring forest cover in more of the higher elevations will benefit populations and ecological processes in both the short and long term, but should be complemented by research on the impacts of regional and global human activities on the forests systems.

Ecological Delineation Justification

The montane forests of Talamanca and the central mountain range of Costa Rica and Panama host a diverse and unique association of flora and fauna, which share components with North and South America and the Caribbean and Pacific slopes. Many endemic species are found here, and this archipelago of montane habitats hosts high levels of beta diversity and endemism. Our line follows the Holdridge life zones of Tosi (1969) and encompasses the premontane rainforest, the lower montane rainforest, the montane rainforests, small patches of subalpine rain páramo and all the other Lize zones enclosed in this larger matrix . In Panama our line work follows the UNDP (1970) to include the low montane rain forest, the montane low rain forest, the humid montane forest, the montane rain forest, the premontane rain forest, and the premontane wet forest life zones.


The combination of significant changes in the ecoregion, climatic variations and the central location along the land bridge between North America and South America provides an enormous biological richness and endemism. Located in the highlands of Costa Rica and western Panama, the ecoregion of the montane forests of Talamanca is located above 750 m and above 1,500 m in some places of the Pacific slope, up to about 3,000 meters of altitude , where they are classified in páramo pastures. The precipitation and temperature in this zone of Central America is a direct result of the elevation and orientation toward the north or south of the mountain range. The average temperature and precipitation for this part of Costa Rica varies from 25 ° C to 2000 m above sea level, at -8 ° C in the highest altitudes, to more than 6000 m above sea level at the highest points, including Chirripó hill, which is the highest point in South Central America (3,820 masl) The high humidity and average annual rainfall is 2,500 to 6,500 mm. Steep geography, and cool temperatures have limited agricultural and urban development, making these humid montane forests one of the most intact ecosystems in Central America.

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