Talamancan and Isthmian Pacific Forests

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Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve, Costa Rica.
© WWF-Canon / Olga SHEEAN

About the Area

The moist forests of this ecoregion extend from the western lowlands of Costa Rica and Panama, just off the Pacific coast, up to the interior mountain areas.

The forested slopes of the Talamanca Mountains descend to low-lying wetlands - an important link in the flyway for migratory birds such as the wood thrush and magnolia warbler.

Many species have restricted ranges within this ecoregion, and are found only along certain ridges or several watersheds.

This area represents a regional centre of endemism for a wide range of plant and animal species that are characteristic of Central American moist lowland and montane forests. Floristically, Central America is the least known part of the world, yet it is extremely rich in numbers of plant species. Of the world's c. 250,000 species of flowering plants, an estimated 15,000-17,000 species live in Central America.

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Size:
16,341 sq. km (6,309 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests

Geographic Location:
Costa Rica and western Panama

Conservation Status:
Relatively Stable/Intact

Local Species
Plant species include endemic oaks (Quercus copeyensis and Q. costaricensis), whereas important animals include the quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno), crimson fronted parakeet (Aratinga finschi), endemic red-fronted parrotlet (Touit costaricensis), and 10 endemic hummingbirds (Eupherusa nigriventris, Elvira chionura, E. cupreiceps, Lampornis hemileucus, L. cinereicauda, L. castaneoventris, Calliphlox bryantae, Selasphorus flammula, S. scintilla, S. ardens).

Also found are species such as the three-wattled bellbird (Procnias tricarunculata), endemic black-crowned antpitta (Pittasoma michleri), threatened and endemic mountain squirrel (Syntheosciurus brochus), ocelot (Felis pardalis), and the most likely extinct golden toad (Bufo periglenes).
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Carlos DREWS
Hatchling leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), Playa Chiriqui, Panama.
© WWF-Canon / Carlos DREWS

Featured Species

 / ©: WWF-Canon / R. MALENKI
Alajuela toad (Bufo periglenes), Costa Rica.
© WWF-Canon / R. MALENKI
The golden toad (Bufo periglenes) was a small, shiny, bright-orange toad. It is sometimes also called the Monteverde golden toad, or the Monte Verde toad. Adult males measured just barely 5 cm (2 inches) long. The female toads are slightly larger than the males, and look very different, with dark olive to black coloring with scarlet spots encircled by yellow.

Very little is known about golden toad behavior and it is believed that they live underground. In the Monteverde forest, golden toads were conspicuous only during the breeding season, where males and females converge on small temporary pools. Golden toads have never been widespread, but they used to be abundant in a handful of areas of cloud-shrouded tropical forest above the Costa Rican town of Monteverde. No one has seen a golden toad since 1989, and they are thought to be one of the first species to become extinct as a direct result of climate change.

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Threats
Threats include deforestation from logging, and conversion of land for agriculture. New access roads, malaria control, and incentives for migration to these areas in the last few decades have encouraged settlement and resource extraction from the area. Illegal logging and squatting is making in-roads into the remaining large forest blocks in Nicaragua.
WWF’s work
The Talamancan Montane Forest Ecoregion is considered one of 5 ‘conservation hubs’ - large blocks of relatively intact natural habits - critical to the functionality of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. One of WWF’s projects is the ‘Reconnaissance of the Talamancan Montane Forest Ecoregion in Costa Rica and Panama’.

Under this project, WWF will conduct a multidisciplinary rapid assessment of the Talamancan Montane Forest Ecoregion complex as a first step to determine the potential for carrying out an Ecoregion-Based Conservation programme. The reconnaissance should also orient WWF in framing the development of an ecoregional plan and identify any urgent needs requiring immediate action (i.e. how WWF should proceed).

WWF Central America will assess the potential for developing a biodiversity conservation strategy for the Talamancan Montane Forests ecoregion. This strategy, termed Ecoregion-Based Conservation (ERBC), attempts to conserve the full range of natural communities and ecological and evolutionary phenomena, maintain viable populations of species, sustain important ecological processes and services that maintain biodiversity, and protect blocks of natural habitat large enough to be responsive to short- and long-term change.

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