What makes Costa Rica’s biodiversity so unique?
Did you know Costa Rica’s landmass accounts for only 0.03% of the entire planet's surface? Very small, right?
However, this tiny nation is home to approximately 5% of the species worldwide and, as a result, is listed among the 20 richest countries in terms of biodiversity per area.
That means it is possible to find more species per square mile in Costa Rica than in larger countries such as Brazil or Colombia, where you will need to cover a much larger area to find an equal number of plant and animal species.
Considering only the terrestrial part, which represents 19,729 square miles, Costa Rica is estimated to host half a million species. About 8,500 plants, 220 reptiles, 160 amphibians, 205 mammals and 850 bird species have been identified so far. There are more bird species in Costa Rica than in all of the United States and Canada -- combined!
Located between the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans, Costa Rica serves as a biological bridge connecting North and South America. Thanks to its rugged geography that includes lowlands, mountain ranges and valleys, the country experiences a wide variety of microclimates. Also, more than half of the territory is covered by lush forests and about a quarter is protected by parks and reserves. Costa Rica is a biological hotspot worth exploring!
La Amistad International Park is a perfect example of this great biological wealth. With 479,000 acres, this is Costa Rica’s largest nature park. La Amistad is also a binational protected area, created in 1982 by the governments of Costa Rica & Panama to protect tropical humid and cloud forests on both the Pacific and Atlantic slopes, as well as several indigenous communities.
Tortuguero National Park, on the northern Caribbean coast, is another example of lavish vegetation and abundant wildlife. Its network of navigable canals and lagoons have earned it the name of ‘Costa Rica’s little Amazon’. It is also one of the most important sites for green turtle conservation worldwide.
Other endangered species include the needlefish, which locals called Gaspar, considered a living fossil because of its alligator-like appearance, which has hardly changed in 150 million years. Tortuguero is also home to one of the largest Afro-Caribbean communities in the country.
The Osa Peninsula, located in the south Pacific coast, has been listed by National Geographic as "the most biologically intense place on Earth" due to the exuberance of its tropical forests.
You can learn more about Costa Rica and its great biodiversity by taking online Spanish classes at CPI Spanish Immersion School and reading our blog The Costa Rica Experience.