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Costa Rican Ecosystems

With a Presentation by Rodrigo Gámez Lobo and a Foreword by Thomas E. Lovejoy
In the more than thirty years since the publication of Daniel H. Janzen’s classic Costa Rican Natural History, research in this small but astonishingly biodiverse, well-preserved, and well-studied Latin American nation has evolved from a species-level approach to the study of entire ecosystems. And from the lowland dry forests of Guanacaste to the montane cloud forests of Monteverde, from the seasonal forests of the Central Valley to the coastal species assemblages of Tortuguero, Costa Rica has proven to be as richly diverse in ecosystems as it is in species.

In Costa Rican Ecosystems, Maarten Kappelle brings together a collection of the world’s foremost experts on Costa Rican ecology—outstanding scientists such as Daniel H. Janzen, Jorge Cortés, Jorge A. Jiménez, Sally P. Horn, Robert O. Lawton, Quírico Jiménez M., Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, Catherine M. Pringle, and Eduardo Carrillo J., among others—to offer the first comprehensive account of the diversity, structure, function, uses, and conservation of Costa Rica’s ecosystems. Featuring a foreword and introductory remarks by two renowned leaders in biodiversity science and ecological conservation, Thomas E. Lovejoy and Rodrigo Gámez Lobo, in addition to chapters highlighting the geology, soils, and climate of Costa Rica, as well as the ecosystems of its terrestrial, freshwater, and marine habitats, and including previously unpublished information on Isla del Coco, this beautiful color-illustrated book will be an essential reference for academic scientists, students, natural history guides, conservationists, educators, park guards, and visitors alike.

744 pages | 244 color plates, 82 halftones, 10 line drawings, 25 tables | 8 1/2 x 11 | © 2015

Biological Sciences: Conservation, Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, Natural History


"Here it is—the book about the tiny country in Latin America with probably the most intensively studied ecosystems in the tropics. Summarizing all facets of the interesting natural history gained from decades of intensive field research in a country as diverse as its name promises is a difficult task to tackle. Nevertheless, combined efforts of over seventy contributing authors manages to introduce the reader to all Costa Rican ecosystems in ten parts (I was tempted to say ‘easy steps’ since it reads that well). In addition to describing all important ecosystems, the book includes a scientific synthesis of facts. Without doubt, the authors take advantage of the scientific output of an army of researchers who seem to have looked into all details of the country's myriad ecosystems. Even more amazing, the authors build on innumerable classic studies—reflected in the long reference lists of each of the book's twenty-one chapters—which emphasizes that many of the commonly accepted hypothesis and theories in tropical biology emerged from research conducted in Costa Rica. . . . I thoroughly enjoyed the book and learned many new things about Costa Rica and its ecosystems. It is now on my list of recommended readings for students in a tropical ecology course and for anyone looking for a comprehensive description of many different tropical ecosystems."

Norbert Kunert, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry | Biotropica

"Kappelle has been fortunate in securing contributions from most of the leading biodiversity researches who live or work in the country. It is consequently particularly authoritative. . . . This is clearly a landmark publication for Costa Rican ecology, which will undoubtedly be the starting point for many future studies. It is also gratifying to see how much can be achieved to get to grips with biodiversity in a tropical country in a relatively modest period of time, most work having been done over the last sixty years, with the commitment of inspirational researchers, funding agencies, and conservation orientated national authorities. It should be on the shelves of all who work in tropical ecology.

David L. Hawksworth, Universidad Complutense de Madrid | Biodiversity and Conservation

“Costa Rica is an important location for research on tropical ecosystems as well as a common travel destination for US university biology students. This book provides a comprehensive summary of the major regions of Costa Rica and will be extremely useful to scientists, educators, and students. Editor Kappelle has worked extensively in Costa Rica and brings together contributions from experts for each ecosystem within the country. Introductory chapters describe the climate, geology, and soils. Several chapters cover Pacific and Caribbean coastal ecosystems and the Isla del Coco. The lowland forests are organized into chapters by region (Caribbean and the northern, central, and southern Pacific). The highlands are covered in several chapters, including one on the high-elevation grassland called páramo. Other chapters describe rivers, lakes, and wetlands. Each chapter summarizes the main research that has occurred in a specific ecosystem and provides references. Most chapters also contain an interesting description of the history of exploration and human effects on the ecosystem. The book is well illustrated with color photographs and maps. Recommended.”

M. P. Gustafson, Texas Lutheran University | Choice

“One of the most important countries for tropical ecological education and research, Costa Rica also has the most comprehensive and successful national system of conservation areas. Costa Rican Ecosystems takes an atypically holistic, integrated approach to its subject, offering both introductory and ecological chapters that together provide a very excellent overview of the important attributes and issues of the country’s major ecosystems. The authors are a literal ‘who’s who’ of Costa Rican ecological research, with an impressive percentage from Costa Rica. Kappelle has done an outstanding job in catalyzing and pulling together a great book. Costa Rican Ecosystems is a strong and valuable contribution, a major advancement of our ecological knowledge.”

Gary Hartshorn, former president and CEO of the Organization for Tropical Studies and the World Forestry Center

Table of Contents

(i) Dedication

(ii) List of Contributors

(iii) Foreword
Thomas E. Lovejoy

(iv) Presentation
Rodrigo Gámez Lobo

(v) Preface
Maarten Kappelle

Part I. Introduction

1. Costa Rica’s Ecosystems: Setting the Stage
Maarten Kappelle

Part II. The Physical Environment

2. Climate of Costa Rica
Wilberth Herrera

3. Geology and Tectonic Geomorphology of Costa Rica: A Natural History Approach
Guillermo E. Alvarado and Guaria Cárdenes

4. Soils of Costa Rica: An Agroecological Approach
Alfredo Alvarado and Rafael Mata

Part III. The Pacific Ocean and Isla del Coco

5. The Pacific Coastal-Marine Ecosystem
Jorge Cortés

6. The Gulf of Nicoya Estuarine Ecosystem
José A. Vargas

7. Isla del Coco: Coastal and Marine Ecosystems
Jorge Cortés

8. Isla del Coco: Terrestrial Ecosystems
Michel Montoya

Part IV. The Northern Pacific Dry Lowlands

9. The Northern Pacific Lowland Seasonal Dry Forests of Guanacaste and the Nicoya Peninsula
Quírico Jiménez M., Eduardo Carrillo J., and Maarten Kappelle

10. Biodiversity Conservation History and Future in Costa Rica: The Case of Área de Conservación Guanacaste (ACG)
Daniel H. Janzen and Winnie Hallwachs

Part V. The Central and Southern Pacific Seasonally Moist Lowlands and Central Valley

11. The Central Pacific Seasonal Forests of Puntarenas and the Central Valley
Quírico Jiménez M. and Eduardo Carrillo J.

12. The Southern Pacific Lowland Evergreen Moist Forest of the Osa Region
Lawrence E. Gilbert, Catherine Christen, Mariana Altrichter, John T. Longino, Peter M. Sherman, Rob Plowes, Monica B. Swartz, Kirk O. Winemiller, Jennifer A. Weghorst, Andres Vega, Pamela Phillips, Christopher Vaughan, and Maarten Kappelle

Part VI. The Moist and Clouded Highlands

13. The Montane Cloud Forests of the Volcanic Cordilleras
Robert O. Lawton, Marcy F. Lawton, R. Michael Lawton, and James D. Daniels

14. The Montane Cloud Forests of the Cordillera de Talamanca
Maarten Kappelle

15. The Páramo Ecosystem of Costa Rica’s Highlands
Maarten Kappelle and Sally P. Horn

Part VII. The Wet Caribbean Lowlands

16. The Caribbean Lowland Evergreen Moist and Wet Forests
Deedra McClearn, Enrique Castro, Ronald C. Coleman, Javier F. Espeleta, Carlos García-Robledo, Alex Gilman, José González, Armond T. Joyce, Erin Kuprewicz, John T. Longino, Nicole L. Michel, Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, Andrea Romero, Carlomagno Soto, Orlando Vargas, Amanda Wendt, Steven Whitfield, and Robert M. Timm

Part VIII. The Caribbean Sea and Shore

17. The Caribbean Coastal and Marine Ecosystems
Jorge Cortés

Part IX. The Rivers, Lakes, and Wetlands

18. Rivers of Costa Rica
Catherine M. Pringle, Elizabeth P. Anderson, Marcelo Ardón, Rebecca J. Bixby, Scott Connelly, John H. Duff, Alan P. Jackman, Pia Paaby, Alonso Ramírez, Gaston E. Small, Marcia N. Snyder, Carissa N. Ganong, and Frank J. Triska

19. Lakes of Costa Rica
Sally P. Horn and Kurt A. Haberyan

20. Bogs, Marshes and Swamps of Costa Rica
Jorge A. Jiménez

Part X. Conclusion

21. Costa Rican Ecosystems: A Brief Summary
Maarten Kappelle

Subject Index
Systematic Index of Common Names
Systematic Index of Scientific Names

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