La Selva Protective Zone
La Selva, Costa Rica
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La Selva Biological Station is the premier ecology research station in Costa Rica, and one of the most important in the tropics worldwide. Located in the northeastern lowlands, La Selva includes a nature reserve that protects about 15 square kilometres (5.8 square miles) of primary tropical rainforest. The forest is surrounded on the west, east, and north by pastures, farms, and other open areas, and its southern boundary adjoins Braulio Carrillo National Park making it a northern extension of the Central Volcanic Conservation Area. The research station is owned and operated by the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS), and is their flagship field station.
La Selva is about 2 hours' drive north of San José, and about 5 minutes south of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí. It is close to the huge Braulio Carrillo National Park, which provides some continuity of habitat. A biological corridor composed of old-growth forest fragments and regenerating forests, purchased in the 1980s, now connects La Selva to Braulio Carrillo. This corridor connects La Selva to much higher elevations, and doing so, it is the only station in Costa Rica to have habitats of such variance. The station is currently buying and developing tiny parcels of land from individuals and Chiquita Brands International banana company to connects multiple old growths and support smaller animal migration.
The reserve is located at the confluence of two rivers, the Río Puerto Viejo and the Río Sarapiquí. The area receives 4000 mm (155 inches) of precipitation in a year, with more than 100 mm (4") each month. Temperatures range from 20-32 degrees Celsius, or 68-90 degrees Fahrenheit, with much more day-to-night variation than seasonal variation. The elevation in the reserve ranges from about 30 meters (98 ft) above sea level at the rivers to nearly 150 meters (490 ft) at the southwest edge of the station.
The habitat is Caribbean lowland wet forest and marshland, and it is extremely rich in flora and fauna. There are nearly 2000 species of vascular plants. Large animals include the jaguar, collared peccary, howler monkey and bushmaster. Around 400 species of birds have been recorded, and the area is very rich in arthropods.
La Selva Biological Station is a hub for research and education in tropical ecology. Nearly 250 scientific papers are published each year from research conducted at the station. There are facilities for about 100 researchers at the station, and hundreds of students from Costa Rica, the United States, and other countries spend part of their studies there on courses run by OTS or their home institutions. The reserve is unusual in that many of the forest trails are paved with concrete, as can be seen in the second image below. Trails farther from the edge of the station are generally mud.
A Walking Palm at La Selva
The bridge over the Puerto Viejo River in La Selva
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