Costa Rica is a small, hilly, rugged country in Central America and has large tracts of rainforest. This country has a total of 27 different national parks, as well as protected areas, that are managed and administrated by the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC), which was created in 1994. SINAC is a department of the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) under the government of Costa Rica. In total, all of the protected areas in Costa Rica account for slightly more than 25% of its landmass. This article will cover the three largest national parks in the country and discuss their location, terrain, climates and conservation efforts.
The Three Largest National Parks In Costa Rica
Chirripó National Park
The third largest among Costa Rica's national parks is the Chirripó National Park, which covers 196 square miles (507 square kilometers) of land and was established as a national park in 1975. The park is partially located in three different provinces of the country, Cartago, Limón and San José. This national park is home to five different ecosystems, which are subalpine wet forest, montane wet forest, lower montane wet forest, lowland tropical wet forest and premontane tropical wet forest.
Most of Chirripó National Park is made up of primary rain forests or cloud forest, although there are wet desert areas past 9,000 feet (2,740 meters) in elevation. The park is named after and most well known for the Cerro Chirripó Mountain, which at 12,530 feet (3,820 meters) tall is the tallest mountain in the country and the 38th most prominent peak on Earth. The park's climate consists of a dry season that runs from December to April and the wet season that runs from May until November. It is also one of the coldest places in the country, with the lowest ever recorded temperature in the country taking place here. In the southwestern area of the Chirripó National Park, there is a research facility called the Las Nubes Center for Neotropical Conservation and Research that studies and monitors that wildlife in the area. The national park's biggest threat to conservation is that it is susceptible to wildfires in its upper regions during the dry season and fires in the past have affected a lot of plants and even caused the park to be closed to the public for months.
Tapantí National Park
The second largest national park in the country is Tapantí National Park, which covers 225 square miles (582 square kilometers) of land and was established as a national park in 2000. The national park of Costa Rica is part of the greater Pacific La Amistad Conservation Area and is located near the city of Cartago on the edge of the Talamanca mountain range. The park is made up of lower montane rainforest and pre-montane rainforest and covers the forests to the north of Chirripó National Park, Macizo de la Muerte and also a piece of the Orosi River. This Tapantí National Park is home to a vast array of different animals, including 45 different mammal species, 400 bird species, 28 reptiles species and also a big insect population. Some notable threatened species that live in this park are Baird's tapir (Tapirus bairdii) and the Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno). In 2009 three new species of miniature orchids in the Lepanthes genus were discovered in the Tapantí National Park, and the area is their only known habitat.
La Amistad International Park
By far the largest national park in Costa Rica and also the largest in Central America, the La Amistad International Park covers a total of 769 square miles (1991 square kilometers) of land, making it as large as the next four largest national parks in the country taken together. The La Amistad International Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, having been designated as such in 1983 and making it the first such site in the country. The La Amistad International Park is a major area of tropical forest and is a major hub of biodiversity in the area as it represents around 20% of the area's species diversity. Due to the park's size and rough terrain as part of the Talamanca mountain range, much of the La Amistad International Park has been largely unexplored. The part also contains some near-threatened, vulnerable and threatened species like the margay (Leopardus wiedii), jaguar (Panthera onca), three-wattled bellbird (Procnias tricarunculatus) and the bare-necked umbrellabird (Cephalopterus glabricollis). To add to the park's uniqueness and remoteness, the site is also home to three different indigenous tribes, the Bribri, Naso and the Ngöbe-Buglé.
The Importance Of Costa Rica's National Parks
The national parks of Costa Rica and indeed all national parks around the world need to be saved and protected for a number of different reasons. National parks help to protect and preserve a country's landscape, wildlife, forests and natural heritage from being destroyed, ruined and being endangered or even extinct from over-development. These parks give plants and animals habitat that they can live and even thrive while allowing us humans to study and learn more about them. National parks also give a country an economic value as tourists from within the country and from abroad will want to visit and experience that natural sights and sounds of a place that only a national park can offer.