Rainforest in Costa Rica

Rainforest in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Rainforest

Today Costa Rica is famous for its rainforests, but that hasn't always been the case — in the 1960's, 1970's, and 1980's, the country had a very high deforestation rate. Large areas of rainforest were chopped down for farms and cattle ranches. As a result, Costa Rica suffered from increased soil erosion, declining water quality, and worsening river sedimentation.

In the 1990's Costa Rica strengthened forest protection laws, including increasing areas under protection and setting up a program that pays landowners to preserve forests. At the same time, Costa Rica placed greater emphasis on ecotourism. People began to see that saving forests could generate just as many jobs and as much money as cutting them down for wood or agricultural land. Gradually Costa Rica's forests began to regrow in areas that were bare just a generation earlier.

The recovery of Costa Rica's forests was good news for its wildlife. It was also good for the economy. Investment in ecotourism helped lead to the development of other value-added services, diversifying the economy beyond agricultural production. Today Costa Rica is the wealthiest country in Central America and its citizens regularly rank among the happiest on Earth according to surveys.

Biodiversity in Costa Rica

Costa Rica's rainforests and other ecosystems are particularly rich. While it is most famous for animals like poison dart frogs, parrots, jaguars, monkeys, sloths, and tapirs, it is home to more than 1,300 species of butterflies, at least 838 species of birds, 440 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 232 species of mammals.

By Rhett Butler

Date published: June 24, 2004 | Last updated: December 5, 2015