Mangrove Forests under Dry Seasonal
Climates in Costa Rica
Jorge A. Jiménez
ALONG THE 6,600-km coastline of Central America, mangrove forests are a distinctive element in the landscape. More than 340,000 ha of mangroves exist along the Pacific coast, and 225,000 ha are found on the Caribbean coast of the isthmus. These forests represent around 7 percent of Central America's natural forest coverage and 8 percent of the world's mangroves (CCAD 1998).
More than 20 percent of the human population of Central America lives near coastal areas, and more than 200,000 people directly depend on coastal fishery industries in Central America (CCAD 1998). Mangrove forests have, therefore, high socioeconomic relevance in the region.
In Costa Rica, mangrove forests are almost exclusively located on the Pacific coast of the country. The Caribbean coastline, lacking inlets, bays, and other wave-protected areas, does not provide suitable habitats for mangrove development. In addition, a tidal range of only 30 cm further reduces the amount of appropriate habitats. As a result, mangrove areas on this coast are limited to small isolated patches in some river mouths and coastal lagoons.
This chapter summarizes available information on biological characteristics and conservation issues associated with mangrove forests under dry seasonal climates in Costa Rica. I emphasize the impact that dry seasonal climates have on diversity patterns and the structural and functional attributes of these ecosystems. I also discuss the strong dependence of these forests and their associated fauna on the surrounding ecosystems. Finally, I offer recommendations on key areas needing research and integrative approaches to coastline management.
PACIFIC COAST OF COSTA RICA
Within the Pacific region, current climatic patterns have produced two different associations: