On this web page one may consult the first results of an ecological
study on Costa Rica's Osa Conservation Area (ACOSA), which was
conducted between 1998 and 2000 by the ECOMAPAS Project. This
project was designed and implemented as a joint effort by Costa
Rica's National Biodiversity Institute (INBio) and the National
System of Conservation Areas (SINAC). It represents the project's
first digital on-line contribution. The first data on the area's
ecosystems and vegetation are reported here, on basis of an intense
geographical and ecological inventory and mapping process.
ACOSA is one out of eleven Conservation Areas in Costa Rica and
includes 17 protected wildlife areas. This Conservation Areas
comprises the Osa Peninsula and its surroundings along the Pacific
coast, from Dominical down to Burica Point. It maintains an extra-ordinary
species richness in plants, animals, fungi and microorganisms.
According to INBio's database (the Atta system), there are at
least 2659 vascular plant species in ACOSA, distributed over 203
families and 1029 genera. The ECOMAPAS Project has been able to
report a total of 794 vascular plant species in ACOSA, being 7.7
% of the 10.350 plant species recorded for Costa Rica and 30.9
% of the vascular flora known from ACOSA, according to INBio's
Atta database. At this moment, only 44.7% of ACOSA is still covered
with forest, mainly concentrated in the Corcovado and Piedras
Blancas National Parks.
The ecosystem classification system we applied was developed on
basis of the International System for the Classification of the
World's Vegetation as proposed by the UNESCO in 1973. We implemented
the modifications that were recommended by the USGS-NPS Vegetation
Mapping Program (The Nature Conservancy, 1994) and adapted the
system to the particular situation of Costa Rica as an extraordinarily
species-rich country. Classification systems that have been applied
in Costa Rica in the past were taken into account during the development
of the current ecosystem classification system. This system is
hierarchical, can be applied at multiple scales and makes use
of different levels of classification, among which the physiognomic,
floristic, climatic, hydrologic and anthropogenic levels prevail.
It is a flexible system, which is easy to use, scientifically
rigorous, usefull at the international level, compatible with
other international classification systems, efficient and effective.
The vegetation and other types of land use are jointly considered
to be one of the most important components in ecosystem description,
while also being one of the most clear indicators of ecosystem
health condition. For this reason, land cover and in particular
the existing vegetation, are used as basic ecosystem attributes
which help most in their identification, characterization, mapping,
monitoring, conservation and sustainable use.
The floristic data gathered at 184 sample points in ACOSA were
analyzed. Thus, on basis of identification in the field and collection
of 316 botanical specimens, a total of 794 vascular plant species
were recorded. A total of 59 species were new records according
to the Atta information system, which stores the taxonomic information
generated by INBio. There were at least 82 endemic plant species
in ACOSA. As a result, 38 ecosystems were identified, distributed
over 28 natural and semi-natural, and 10 cultural ecosystems,
ranging from different types of dense forest to coffee and rice
The geographic and ecological data presented in the corresponding
book (see: source), were incorporated into a Geographical Information
System (GIS), which permits a great flexibility in the design
and production of thematic maps on land cover, ecosystems and
vegetation. This GIS may easily be extended, updated or modified,
depending on the needs of the different sectors of society.
This information may be used by both its collectors and administrators,
as well as by other national and international bodies, thus contributing
to the conservation and sustainable use of Costa Rica's biodiversity.
The information presented here will particularly put a basis for
a monitoring process that will focus on spatial changes in ecosystem
conditions in time. This will be fundamental for formulating necessary
recommendations related to decision-making in planning, management
and sustainable use of biodiversity at the long term.
Kappelle, M., M. Castro, H. Acevedo, L. González, &
H. Monge. 2002 (in press). Ecosystems of the Osa Conservation
Area, Costa Rica. Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía (MINAE)
& Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio). INBio, Santo
Domingo de Heredia, Costa Rica.