The Osa Peninsula- The Most Bio-diverse Place in Costa Rica
The Osa Peninsula is located in the Southwest of Costa Rica and covers an area of 1093 km². The peninsula contains the last remnants of tropical broad-leaved evergreen lowland rainforest on the Central American Pacific slope and holds a very high species richness, containing around 50% of Costa Rica’s biodiversity in just 5% of its land mass. Furthermore, this area inhabits several endemic species, such as the Cherrie’s tanager (Ramphocelus costaricensis), the red-backed squirrel monkey, or titi monkey as its better known in Costa Rica (Saimiri oerstedii) and the Golfo Dulce poison dart frog (Phyllobates vittatus). Since these and more species are only found in this area, it makes the Osa Peninsula the ideal location for conservation research.
Three main forest types can be found in the Osa Peninsula; Tropical Wet, Premontane Wet and Tropical Moist forest, with elevations ranging between 200 and 760 m. The variation in topography leads to a highly variable climate, with an average annual rainfall of 5500 mm, a mean temperature of around 27 °C and humidity levels almost never dropping below 90%. There are around 12,000 people living in the Osa Peninsula, mainly settled in small and scattered villages.
Nationally, the priority for the Osa Peninsula is reconnecting the land between the national parks in the area: Corcovado, Piedras Blancas, Terraba-Sierpe and the La Amistad National park in the Cordillera de Talmanca. This region is one of the most heavily affected areas in the country in terms of the fragmentation of land. These protected areas currently exist within a network of agricultural land and unprotected forests, reducing the ability to support wildlife. Wildlife cannot exist in a box and needs room to move, especially in the face of climate change. Restoring and reconnecting habitats is essential if we are to protect wildlife from further losses. In order to do this we need to place land under protection and allow restoration. We have to better understand the requirements of species in order to protect them. Alternative, sustainable livelihoods are essential for local people, and we have to educate both local people and visitors to the Osa about the importance of protecting our wildlife.
The most important sources of income in this region are agriculture (rice, bananas, beans and corn), livestock (cattle), gold mining, logging and, more recently, the expanding eco-tourism industry. On the Osa, the human population is increasing at a rate of 2.6% annually, which is incredibly high compared to 1.3% in the rest of the country and 1.14% globally. As a result of the growing popularity of ecotourism, there has been a rise in the number of hospitality business along the road from Puerto Jimenez to Carate since the 1990's. This, combined with meeting the demand for the growing population in the area and high rates of agriculture, has caused growing concern for the sustainability of the regions environmental resource demands and protection of its ecosystems.