The Cordillera Volcánica Central Biosphere Reserve, located in the central highlands of Costa Rica, is rich in both natural resources and cultural heritage. It encompasses four national parks, two forest reserves, six protected zones and a national monument.
Cordillera Volcánica Central Biosphere Reserve
The Cordillera Volcánica Central Biosphere Reserve is located in the central highlands of Costa Rica, about 60 km (37 mi) northwest of San José. This biosphere reserve is one of the richest in both natural resources and cultural heritage. On its long axis, there are several volcanic cones with their still well-formed craters.
The Cordillera Volcánica Central Biosphere Reserve comprises four national parks, two forest reserves, six protected zones and the Guayabo National Monument: The national parks include:
Poás Volcano National Park features permanent fumarolic activity and has a history of eruptions. It is one of the most important natural attractions in Costa Rica and is a destination for national and international tourism.
Braulio Carrillo National Park is one of the largest protected areas in Costa Rica. Its landscape consists of high mountains, covered with dense forests and canyons with rivers and streams, important in the production of hydroelectricity. Geological features include the Barva Volcano and several dormant volcanoes including Cerro Chompipe, Cerro Cacho Negro, and Cerros las Tres Marias. From high-altitude cloud forests to lowlands tropical rainforests, it hosts some of the highest levels of biodiversity in Costa Rica.
Irazú Volcano National Park is home to the highest volcano in Costa Rica along with its five craters. The native forest here consists mainly of oaks and alder and helps protect the watershed of the Reventado River. Within this protected wilderness area, several streams empty into the basins of the Reventazón, Sarapiqui, Sucio and Toro Amarillo Rivers.
Turrialba Volcano National Park is centered on the Turrialba Volcano which features fumarolic activity and gas emissions. The volcano has three craters with the presence of dry lava flows on their flanks. It has a maximum elevation of 3,340 m (10,958 ft) above sea level, the second-highest volcano in the country.
The Cordillera Central is part of the American Cordillera, a chain of mountain ranges (cordillera) that consists of an almost continuous sequence of mountain ranges known as the Continental Divide that form the western "backbone" of North America, Central America, South America and Antarctica.
Significant variation in its physical characteristics has fostered a very rich biological diversity evidenced by life zones ranging from wet and rain tropical forests to semi-paramos.
Currently, only small patches of vegetation remain in the volcanic peak zone, generally in the riverbeds. Here it is possible to distinguish several oak species, and other trees such as (Escallonaceae), Dogwood (Cornaceae) and Magnolia (Magnoliaceae).
The topography of the Cordillera Volcánica Central Biosphere Reserve is very steep and broken with a great altitudinal range with many streams, waterfalls and several lakes. Premontane rainforest, tropical humid forest, lower montane rain forest and montane rain forest are the reserve’s major landcover types.
Over 300,000 inhabitants live in land reform settlements surrounding La Selva Biological Station, engaged mainly in agriculture (coffee, cardamom, beans, manioc, maize, and black pepper) and animal husbandry.