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Coral Reefs & Wetlands

Coastal areas are important for shorebirds (many of them are migratory), and constitute extremely important nesting sites for marine turtles. This is the area where the most extravagant coral reefs are found.

Mangroves, Coastal Habitats & Other Wetlands

Mangroves are forests that grow in between the area of low and high tide, with an influence of freshwater. At least five species of trees can be found growing in these estuarine habitats. The mangrove ecosystems serve as wildlife refuges, nursery and spawning areas. Several species of marine organisms spent their initial stages of development among the roots of the mangroves. Mangroves also help as nutrient and sediment retention areas and shoreline protection. The Terraba-Sierpe mangroves in the South Pacific, Puntarenas Province, were declared RAMSAR sites, as well as the Tamarindo wetlands, the Potrero Grande Mangroves (Guanacaste) and those in the Gandoca-Manzanillo NP (Limón Province, Atlantic coast) .

"The Terraba-Sierpe mangroves consist of the estuary of two rivers, adjacent lagoons,periodically inundated mangrove and "yolillo" palm swamp forest, sandy beaches and cliffs. Supports 55 species of fish, several commercial shellfish species, numerous bird species, mammals and reptiles. Human activities within the site consist of extraction of mangroves for fuel and tannins, traditional fishing, clam and crab harvesting". 

Source: Ramsar website(

Palo Verde and Caño Negro Wetlands

Protected by the Caño Negro WR (Alajuela Province) and the Palo Verde NP (Guanacaste Province) are two important wetlands, a system of permanent shallow waters, inundated marshes and seasonally inundated woodlands. Both wetlands are used as nesting and foraging sites by a lot of migrant and resident waterbirds. They both support a small population of the Jabiru (Jabiru mycteria, similar to a stork). The Caño Negro wetlands also have important populations of the Caiman crocodilus and the fish Atractosteus tropicus a living fossil.

Coral Reefs

The coral reefs are built by living organisms: the corals. These animals have a skeleton made of calcium carbonate, and are associated to algae which produce the food (by photosynthesis). The coral reefs are among the most productive environments of the world, and they are important not only as carbon sinks but also for marine life reproduction.

Costa Rica has coral reefs on both coasts. The most developed reefs are in the south Atlantic coast, from Moín to Punta Mona, and cover about 10 sq km. The Cahuita National Park protects the greatest coral reef in of the Caribbean coast, and it has been one of the most studied. On the Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast the coral reefs can be found in the coastal zone, in the Golfo Dulce (South of the country) and in the islands.  Bahía Culebra, Sámara, Dominical and the corals of Corcovado National Park are highly diverse. The most outstanding islands with coral reefs are the Isla del Caño and Isla del Coco.

Sources: Janzen D. 1991. Historia Natural de Costa Rica.;  Henderson, C. 2002. Field guide to the wildlife of Costa Rica. U of Texas Press;  Jorge Cortés Núñez, Jorge Cortés, Alberto Léon, Alberto León Soler. 2002.;  Arrecifes coralinos del Caribe de Costa Rica: The Coral Reefs of Costa Rica's Caribbean Coast. INBio.;  Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad.

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