The Costa Rican páramo is a moist montane grassland and shrubland ecoregion found in the higher elevations of Costa Rica and western Panama within the Cordillera de Talamanca. It is one of Central America's most intact habitats, with high biological richness.
Costa Rican Páramo
The Costa Rican páramo is a moist montane grassland and shrubland ecoregion found in the higher elevations of Costa Rica and western Panama within the Cordillera de Talamanca. The region is sometimes called the Talamanca páramo, as the Talamancan montane forests surround it at lower elevations.
Páramo can refer to a variety of alpine tundra ecosystems, but more narrowly, it is classified according to its regional placement:
the northern Andes of South America (Andean Moorland)
southern Central America (Costa Rican páramo)
The steep slopes and remoteness of the Costa Rican páramo ecoregion have limited human development impact. It is, therefore, one of Central America's most intact habitats, featuring high biological richness. The ecoregion provides a habitat for high floral and faunal species diversity, many of which are endemic.
The Costa Rican páramo can be divided into three altitudinal zones:
Superpáramo: a narrow zone with scarce vegetation between the grass páramo and the snow line
Páramo: dominated by grasses, rushes, herbs, and low shrubs of the Gramineae, Asteraceae, Cyperaceae, Rosaceae and Ericacea families
Subpáramo: a dwarf forest dominated by the dwarf bamboo Chusquea subtessellata, along with short shrubs
The forest habitats of this ecoregion include Atlantic slope rainforests, Pacific-slope seasonally dry but mostly evergreen forests and cloud forests on the mountain tops.
The high annual rainfall, wind-blown mist and frequent presence of clouds produce a lush, dense forest with a broken canopy and high species diversity.
Flora and Fauna
Over 30% of the ecoregion's flora, including over 10,000 vascular and 4,000 non-vascular plant species, are endemic to this area, as are some fauna species.
Abundant epiphytes cover tree branches, and tree ferns are common. Dominant tree groups include the Lauraceae family and endemic oaks (Quercus spp.). Majestic trees characterize the unique oak forest in this ecoregion up to 50 m (164 ft tall), heavily dominated by Quercus costaricensis and Q. copeyensis. In addition, several species of dwarf bamboo (Chusquea) characterize the understory.
More than half of the avifauna of the highlands of Costa Rica and western Panama are endemic to this region. Almost 85% of the species with restricted geographic ranges depend on the forest; most of these are endemic to the Costa Rica-Chiriqui highlands.
Endemism among amphibians is also high; at least seven small mammals are considered regional endemics.