GIS Methodologies for Developing Conservation Strategies: Tropical Forest Recovery and Wildlife Management in Costa Rica

By Basil G. Savitsky; Thomas E. Lacher Jr. | Go to book overview

2
Conservation Mapping in Costa Rica
Christopher Vaughan, Jorge Fallas,
and Michael McCoy

Historical Perspective on Costa Rica

Costa Rica is one of Latin America's smallest countries (51,100 km2), with a human population of about three million people (or fifty-seven people per square kilometer). Its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is equivalent to U.S.$6.4 billion and its per capita income is $2,200. The industry sector contributes 26.1 percent, and the primary sector contributes 19.6 percent. By 1994 tourism, especially ecotourism, had become the primary source of foreign currency income, replacing the traditional three major products of coffee, bananas, and cattle meat. Much of this ecotourism has arrived to observe the country's biodiversity (Damon and Vaughan 1995).

Covering only 0.04 percent of the world's terrestrial area, Costa Rica has extremely high biodiversity, with an estimated 500,000 biotic species, or 4 percent, of the world's total (Jiménez 1995). This includes 208 mammal species, 850 bird species, 160 amphibian species, 200 reptile species, 130 freshwater fish species, and 225,000 insect species (Umaña and Brandon 1992). Over 95 percent of the biodiversity is thought to be protected in a world-class wildlands system. One can travel in 100 kilometers from a mangrove estuary, through a tropical rain forest, a montane cloud forest and a páramo (subalpine scrub). The extreme biodiversity in Costa Rica is a result of a land bridge formed between two continents (figure 2.1) with their migrating biota, a tropical setting between two oceans, and wide variations in climate, slopes, and soil formations (Vaughan 1990a).

Twenty years ago Costa Rica shared many of neighboring Central America's socioeconomic-ecological problems, and its immense biodiversity treasures were threatened (Anis 1992; Leonard 1987). It had one of the world's highest deforesta

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