The Talamancan Montane forests ecoregion is one of Central America's most intact habitats with high species diversity. The ecoregion covers a discontinuous area within the highlands of northwestern Costa Rica and western Panama, protected by numerous parks and reserves.
Talamancan Montane Forests
The Talamancan Montane forests ecoregion is one of Central America's most intact habitats. The ecoregion covers a discontinuous area within the highlands of northwestern Costa Rica and western Panama, including the Cordillera de Guanacaste, Cordillera de Tilarán, Cordillera Central and the Cordillera de Talamanca. In addition, outliers occur on the Azuero Peninsula.
Located in the highlands, the Talamancan Montane forests occur above approximately 750 m (2,500 ft) or, in some places on the Pacific slope, above 1,500 m (5,000 ft). At about 3,000 m (9,800 ft), they grade into the páramo grasslands of the Costa Rican páramo ecoregion.
The average temperature and rainfall for this area vary from 25 °C (77 °F) and 2,000 mm (79 in) to -8 °C (17 °F) and >6,000 mm (>236 in) at the highest peaks.
High humidity, precipitation, steep slopes and cool temperatures have limited agricultural and urban development, allowing these moist forests to maintain one of Central America's more intact ecosystems.
Flora and Fauna
Species diversity in the Talamancan Montane forests ecoregion is high. 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.). The unique oak forest stands found here 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 several species of dwarf bamboo (Chusquea). Higher peaks and ridges exposed to moisture-laden trade winds support an elfin or dwarf forest characterized by thick mats of bryophytes covering short, dense gnarled trees.
Almost 75% of the original forest cover remains intact, with much of the area under national and international parks protection. However, clearing forests for agriculture development, cattle pastures, and timber harvesting has begun to alter unprotected habitats.
Protected areas within this ecoregion include:
Map depicting the location of the Talamancan montane forests (in purple)