WHERE IS THE RINCON RAINFOREST?
Along the north edge of the easternmost part of the Area de Conservacion Guanacaste (ACG), in northwestern Costa Rica. The ACG is about 2% of the country. The ACG is 110,000 hectares of dry forest, cloud forest and rain forest, and 43,000 hectares of Pacific ocean.The ACG crosses 9 Life Zones from the dry Pacific coastal plain to the Atlantic rainforests.
The 4,500 hectare Rincon Rainforest is for sale. Its 52 owners have moved off their lands over the past 3-15 years and will sell to anyone. Its old-growth forest will be logged and it will become a plantation of gmelina, palm heart plantation, timber, or fruit trees if we do not buy it and add it to the Area de Conservación Guanacaste, which lies along its southern boundary. Will you help to save this rainforest forever? You will be buying Existence for it and the 30,000+ species that live in it. You will help the ACG's seasonal migrants from the dry forest to survive. And you will help the Area de Conservacion Guanacaste survive global warming.
What is the Area de Conservacion Guanacaste (ACG),
The ACG is 110,000 terrestrial hectares and 43,000 marine hectares of permanently conserved government-owned wildlands in northwestern Costa Rica. It began in 1971 as the 10,400 ha Parque Nacional Santa Rosa, a national monument and tropical dry forest national park. This conservation unit began to expand in 1986 to restore and conserve an entire tropical dry forest ecosystem. Today the ACG is a single biophysical unit about 90 km long, stretching from 17 km out in the Pacific Ocean to the east in the foothills of the Caribbean coastal plains. It contains about 235,000 species in its dry forest, cloud forest and rain forest, and the intergrades between these major ecosystems. This is roughly 2.4% of the world's terrestrial biodiversity, or 60% of the species that occur in Costa Rica. It is also more species than occur in the continental USA. The ACG was decreed a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 2 December 1999, and the definition is written such that any additions to it are automatically part WHS.
The ACG dry forest ecosystem cannot be conserved without also conserving the cloud forest and rain forest at its eastern end. These wetter and cooler forests are where many of the dry forest species migrate to pass the 6-month dry season. Equally important, as global warming dries and heats the ACG dry forest today, the eastern wetter and cooler forests are the long-term refuge to which they are retreating.
The ACG is a fully functional decentralized governmental unit with a management endowment, 110 professional Costa Rican resident staff members, and programs in education, research, tourism, reforestation, biodiversity development, fire control, police protection, and facilities. Income generated by the endowment is supplemented by payment for environmental goods and services to meet all operating costs. The ACG is integrated with the other 10 Costa Rican Conservation Areas, which together constitute SINAC (Sistema Nacional de Areas de Conservación) in MINAE, the Ministerio del Ambiente y Energía.
Why is the Rincon Rainforest outside of the ACG?
The ACG has three volcanos in its (wet) eastern side - Volcán Orosí (1400 m), Volcán Cacao (1500 m) and Volcán Rincón de la Vieja (2000 m). The eastern slopes of these volcanos are clothed in magnificent cloud forest and very wet rainforest - they face directly into the trade winds blowing off the Caribbean. The rainforests on the eastern lower slopes of Volcán Orosí and Volcán Cacao are already conserved in the ACG right out to the boundary with the agricultural landscape, thanks to the generosity of hundreds of individual donors in many countries during the past 15 years. The pass (Sector San Cristobal) between Volcán Cacao and Volcán Rincón de la Vieja was purchased in 1992-1998, consolidating the ACG into one piece.
However, the orginal boundary for Parque Nacional Rincon de la Vieja (today the most eastern part of the ACG), was drawn as a straight line at 900-1000 m elevation along the northern and eastern slopes of the volcano (see color maps above). Intensive agriculture in the Caribbean lowlands stopped at 400-700 m elevation. The broad band of luxuriant rain forest between this agriculture and the old ACG boundary was "colonized" by farmers and ranchers between 1960 and 1980. These people cleared some patches of forest for beanfields and pasture, and harvested the best timber from some other patches. Much forest remained uncut as old-growth. And then Volcán Rincón erupted mud and steam, the bottom fell out of the cattle market, government conservation policies made timber cutting more difficult, the second generation of colonists urbanized, and aging owners moved to the greater health haven of a more urban life. This created the present opportunity to incorporate the Rincon Rainforest into the ACG by simply buying it.
Today, the Rincon Rainforest, despite containing the beginnings of about 50 farms and ranches is completely unoccupied by its owners. It is a tangled patchwork of gorgeous old-growth forest and rivers, restoring forest following highgrade timber extraction and one-time bean fields, and small pasture/homesteads. This "single" half-hearted colonization event was not enough to extinguish this very species-rich forest, though it certainly altered it. If now left in peace, the Rincon Rainforest will continue its rapid natural restoration. In two to three centuries, even the best ecologists will be hard put to determine that it once suffered this anthropogenic battering.
What is the Rincon Rainforest in its own right?
In Holdridge's formal forest classification scheme, the Rincon Rainforest is Premontane Rainforest (Bosque Pluvial Premontano) at 900 meters down to Very Humid Rainforest (Bosque Muy Humedo Tropical) at 400 meters. In generic terms it is classical rainforest on volcanic foothill soils, receiving 4-5 meters of rain annually. It is home to at least 500 species of vertebrates, 3000 species of plants and many tens of thousands of species of insects, mites, fungi, bacteria, nematodes, spiders, and protozoans. Many of these species in the lower elevation portions do not occur elsewhere in the ACG. Its old-growth forests are 30-50 meters tall. Its poor soils are partly offset by the cooler climate at these intermediate elevations, a coolness that means less respiration at night so greater net productivity for the plants. It is rainforest that borders what was once the great flatland rainforests of northern Costa Rica (these forests are now almost entirely converted to agroscape).
As a 4,500 ha isolated patch of forest, the Rincon Rainforest would quickly deteriorate just as does any other anthropogenic forest island in the agroscape. However, if the Rincon Rainforest is merged with the ACG along its very long boundary, its organisms can participate in the annual and supra-annual elevational movements up and down these volcanic slopes. It can also retain the overall uphill habitat size that its populations and individuals always have had, even if its eastern lower elevation extension has been truncated. Aside from a possibility of future expansion of a few thousand hectares more to the northeast, we and it will just have to live with the reality of this agroscape as the neighbor.
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