Two sides of a mountain

My last post included a sunset.  Everyone loves sunsets.  Like I said in the post, there are amazing sunsets right now on the Pacific side of Costa Rica because it’s pretty dry, which means there aren’t many clouds.  The Atlantic side of the country is a different story….

This morning I was out on my first birding session (5:30am to 2:00pm) in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.  We reached the continental divide around 10 am and here’s the picture I took looking eastward, toward the Atlantic Ocean:

Looking eastward toward the Atlantic Ocean from the continental divide in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

It’s cloudy and windy on this side of the mountain a lot of the year.  Notice that there is a lot of forest out there?  Much of the forest that is protected in Costa Rica exists on this side of the mountain range that bisects the country.  It’s not necessarily untouched forest, much of it was logged in the past 40-100 years, but there are some fairly large pieces of land that is currently forested and a lot of it is protected.

On the other hand … the landscape on the Pacific side (where there are the nice sunsets) has also been cut, but much of it remains open, mostly as pasture.  Here’s a picture I took yesterday:

Looking westward toward the Pacific Ocean from La Calandria Reserve.

Most of the open areas are actively managed for pasture to raise beef cattle.  Look really closely and you might find little white dots.  Those are cows.  Incredibly, they are somehow able to make it up and down the steep slopes to find grass to eat.

This picture is a great example of what “habitat fragmentation” really looks like … small patches of forest of various sizes separated by open areas that are often hard to cross, especially if you are a frog, or a small mammal, or even a plant.  Birds have the advantage of flight, of course, but there are a lot of birds that won’t cross an open pasture if it’s too big.  So, some conservation biologists have suggested that we might try and figure out ways to connect these patches together into “habitat corridors”.  This would allow some of the organisms that can’t cross pastures to move around and find food and perhaps have a better chance of survival in the future.

However, if we want to encourage reforestation that supports biodiversity conservation, it’s not as simple as just “allowing nature to take its course”.  The first forests that grow up in a pasture aren’t necessarily the ones that are best for conservation.  I wrote a little about this in an earlier post: Edge of Reforestation.  Basically, we don’t really know how to get the right trees to grow in a short period of time.  That’s going to take some work.  More on this later!


  1. Hey Tim, I love reading about your work/adventure. In my class we were reading an article about human impact on the environment and I shared the information about “habitat fragmentation” and the challenges it presents for plants and animals. It’s great to share real stories and experiences. Thanks for posting.

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