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Costa Rican Ecosystems$
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Maarten Kappelle

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226121505

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226121642.001.0001

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The Páramo Ecosystem of Costa Rica’s Highlands

The Páramo Ecosystem of Costa Rica’s Highlands

(p.492) Chapter 15 The Páramo Ecosystem of Costa Rica’s Highlands
Costa Rican Ecosystems

Maarten Kappelle

Sally P. Horn

University of Chicago Press

The isthmian páramos (grass- or shrub-dominated ecosystems that occupy the cool and wet upper slopes of tropical mountains at alpine elevations above tree line and below the snow limit) of Costa Rica and Panama form part of the Mesoamerican biodiversity hotspot, one of the 25 most important such areas on Earth. The authors first provide a history of scientific exploration of Costa Rican páramos, which remained largely unexplored before the arrival of Spanish colonists due to the belief of the indigenous peoples of the area that the páramo-covered peaks were sacred. The authors give a description the physical environment that supports the páramos, including climate, geology, soil, and limnology, followed by a quaternary history of the area, emphasizing the effects of glaciers and fires on the environment. The authors then discuss biodiversity on the species and ecosystem level, from protists and fungi to plants and animals. The chapter ends with a summary of land use history and recent fire dynamics in the area, as well the status of its conservation.

Keywords:   Costa Rica, páramo, alpine, ecosystem, isthmus, biodiversity

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