The Costa Rican páramo is a montane moist grassland and shrubland ecoregion that is 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 montane moist grassland and shrubland ecoregion that is found in the higher elevations of Costa Rica and western Panama, within the Cordillera de Talamanca. The region is sometimes referred to as the Talamanca páramo, as it is surrounded at lower elevations by the Talamanca montane forests.
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 served to limit 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
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 a number of fauna species.
The forest habitats of this ecoregion include Atlantic slope rain forest, Pacific-slope seasonally dry but mostly evergreen forest and cloud forest 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.
Abundant epiphytes cover tree branches and tree ferns are common. Dominant tree groups include the Lauraceae family and endemic oaks (Quercus spp.) The unique oak forest stands in this ecoregion are characterized by majestic trees up to 50 m (164 ft tall), heavily dominated by two species: Quercus costaricensis and Q. copeyensis. The understory is characterized by the presence of several species of dwarf bamboo (Chusquea).
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 are dependent on the forest; most of these are species endemic to the Costa Rica-Chiriqui highlands. Endemism among amphibians is also high and at least seven small mammals are considered regional endemics.