The Santa Marta montane forests is an ecoregion in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a massif on the Caribbean coast of northern Colombia. This ecoregion is a characteristic moist forest; however, it rises from a very different habitat of the xeric scrub and dry forest surrounding it.
Santa Marta Montane Forests
The Santa Marta montane forests is an ecoregion in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a massif on the Caribbean coast of northern Colombia. This montane ecoregion is a characteristic moist forest; however, it rises from very different habitats of the xeric scrub and dry forest surrounding it.
This Santa Marta montane forests ecoregion is limited by altitude running from lowlands to 3,300 m (10,800 ft) or ending when the vegetative structure changes to páramo, which is then considered the Santa Marta páramo ecoregion.
The ecoregion covers the slopes of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in the north of Colombia, with an area of 492,097 ha (1,216,000 acres). The range rises to snow-covered peaks only 60 km (37 mi) from the Caribbean Sea.
The ecoregion is almost surrounded by the Sinú Valley dry forests ecoregion. To the northeast and northwest, it transitions directly into Guajira-Barranquilla xeric scrub. In the higher elevations of the mountains, the ecoregion gives way to Santa Marta páramo.
Its geology is complex with rock outcroppings of different types and ages, including rocks of granitic, dioritic and quartz monzonitic batholiths that originated during the Mesozoic and Tertiary periods as volcanic rock and a varied sequence of sediments. It is considered a bio-geographic island that is separate from the Andes range.
The average temperature ranges from 27 °C (80 °F) at sea level to 6°C (43 °F) or less along the peak elevations. Annual precipitation ranges from 1,000 - 3,000 mm (40 - 120 in) and is highest along the northern slope.
Flora and Fauna
The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta has warm wet forests on its northern flank and part of the western flank that is now isolated from other warm and wet forests.
Characteristic species are bastard briziletto, Podocarpus oleifolius, Dictyocarium lamarckianum, and the evergreen bamboo Chusquea tuberculosa. The isolation of the massif and the range of elevations and climates have resulted in a wide variety of species, including many endemics.
The wet lowland forests' flora differs from that in the cloud forests of the middle and high mountain areas, and they have little in common. For example, few vascular species range from sea level to high mountain forests.
The moist forests of the northern section contain tall trees, including Panama rubber, American muskwood, avocado, and Poulsenia armata, at elevations up to 900 m.
From 900 - 1,000 m (2,950 - 3,280 ft), the tree and palm species are smaller, including Pithecellobium longifolium, Geomoma oxicarpa, and the fruit-bearing palm Euterpe precatoria. Above this elevation, cloud forests with high moisture and frequent fogs dominate, leading to tree species of height between 15 - 35 m (50 - 115 ft).
The lower levels contained tropical rainforest, which has largely been cleared. Higher up, this gives way to cloud forests. Much of this has also been cleared for coffee plantations, pasture for sheep and cattle, and farming.
Animal species and subspecies with restricted ranges are known to occur in this and surrounding ecoregions. The associated fauna is diversified.
Mammals include Colombian tapir (Tapirus terrestris colombianus), ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), jaguar (Panthera onca centralis), white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari), agouti or "ñeque" (Dasyprocta punctata), paca (Agouti paca), red howler monkey (Alouatta seniculus).
There are various bird species, such as the keel-billed toucan (Ramphastus sulfuratus), black-chested jay or "chau-chau" (Cyanocorax affinis), Tangara gyrola, Arantinga wagleri, Pharomacrus fulgidus festatus, blue-knobbed curassow or "paujil" (Crax alberti), crested guan or "pava" (Penelope purpurascens brunnescens), Chlorostilbon russatus and Anthocephala floriceps floriceps.
There are also a large variety of reptiles, amphibians, and insects.
Much of this ecoregion's natural habitat has been destroyed. The largest intact areas are along the northern slopes of the Santa Marta.
Notable protected areas in or overlapping the ecoregion include:
Map depicting the location of the Santa Marta montane forests (in purple)