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Transcript of Costa Rica
A World Leader in Conservation Efforts
A History of Environmental Degradation
into the Past
Located north of Panama and south of Nicaragua in the Central American isthmus, its coasts border both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. As the bridge between two continents, it it the point of convergence between distinctive lifeforms from different habitats, resulting in rich biodiversity.
Different ecosystems within the 20,000 square mile nation include rainforests, cloud forests, mangroves, and coral reefs. Features also include mountains, volcanoes, waterfalls, islands, and lakes.
The 700 square mile Osa Peninsula located off Costa Rica's southern Pacific coast is an exhibition of biodiversity found nowhere else on Earth, housing 2.5% of the biodiversity of the entire planet.
By Hannah and Nicole
A Unique Ecosystem
Despite occupying only a small percentage of the Earth's land area, 0.03%, Costa Rica is rich in biodiversity, containing 13,680 known species, 7.6% of which are endemic, in its seven ecoregions.
Pollution also became a major problem with the increased use of cars and the rise of industry, resulting in a rise in carbon dioxide emissions, aided by growing deforestation.
A growing population in the developing country in the 1970s increased the strain on natural resources in the form of increased deforestation to accommodate urbanization and expanding agriculture, which in turn led to soil erosion and habitat fragmentation.
The Beginnings of Change
Towards the turn of the 21st century, Costa Rica adopted a "green growth strategy" in which general goals include carbon neutrality, increased use of hydropower, expansion of ecotourism, sustainable management of natural resources, and reduction in mining as well as oil and gas exploration.
The 1996 Forestry Law No. 7575 was a critical step towards approaching the problem of deforestation. This law legally acknowledged the ecosystem services provided by forests and established the the National Fund for Forestry Financing (FONAFIFO). This fund introduced the national PSA scheme to Costa Rica in 1997, a scheme that encourages and rewards landowners for protecting and growing trees on their land.
This strategy has been incorporated into Costa Rica's governmental policy through a series of laws, of which there are more than 30, that have far-reaching effects on the nation, its relationships with other countries, the lives of its citizens, and the ecosystems it protects.
The 1998 Law on Biodiversity has been acclaimed by the world as the most successful implementation of the initiatives of the Convention on Biodiversity into a country's national law. Invoking the precautionary principle, the law stresses the importance of preserving biodiversity and contains provisions for the creation of the system of national parks one sees in Costa Rica today with the nation divided into 11 Conservation Areas. It also established the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) to manage the parks.
Costa Rica has joined many of the international treaties that promote environmental conservation such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The nation has demonstrated success and determination in reaching the goals set by the CBD, a convention which focuses on protection of ecosystems and prevention of the spread of harmful invasive species.
Costa Rica partners with the United States through the Department of State’s Regional Environmental Hub for Central America and the Caribbean through shared policies that encourage cooperation, the exchange of scientific data, protection of forests and marine ecosystems, and efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Other projects advocated by independent conservation groups include Forever Costa Rica, which establishes an agreement between the United States and Costa Rica to raise funds for the purpose of helping Costa Rica expand marine parks and reach the goals set by the CBD. In this deal, the Nature Conservancy was the main conservation group involved.
In the mid 1970's Costa Rica began establishing a system of nature reserves and national parks. By the year 2012 25 percent of Costa Rica's land was devoted to its system of natural parks and nature reserves. The parks and reserves have become an essential part to the economy of the country. The country is now also now working on restoring portion of its land which were degraded due to the clearing of land for agricultural purposes.
Corcovado National Park
Located in the Osa peninsula, it's considered to be one of the most important nature reserves in the Americas. Covering a space of 41 hectares, it contains a variety of habitats. The park also houses 500 species of trees, 140 species of mammals, 367 species of birds, 40 species of freshwater fish and 117 species of amphibians. National Geographic considered the park to be the most biologically intense place on earth due to the vast amount of species it provides homes for.
La Amistad National Park
Among one of the lesser known parks of the country, La Amistad represents one of the first attempts to create and manage an international protected area. Costa Rica contains half of the portion of the park while the other half is in the country of Panama. Both countries help to manage the park. The temperatures in the park vary from being very warm in the lowlands and cold in the highlands which results in a rich diversity of life zones and species.
Costa Rica’s push towards ecotourism began with the establishment of the Cabo Blanco National Reserve in 1963 and the first national parks in 1971.
Piedras Blancas National Park
Ballena National Park
Las Baulas National Park/Tamarindo Wildlife Refuge
Ecotourism is responsible for both direct and indirect employment and has helped contribute to a reduction of poverty in Costa Rica.
The country’s protected areas bring in an estimated $1.5 billion per year from ecotourism and less tangible ecosystem services and 50% of Costa Rica’s GDP is linked to tourism.
Created in 1993 by the purchasing of privately owned portions of land for public use, the park marks a huge victory for conservationists since much of the area had been degraded in the past due to deforestation and hunting.
One of the nation's newer parks, it was created with the purpose of trying to conserve some of the resources of the South Pacific Region of the nation which are currently threatened by unchecked tourism development and overfishing. The park is also a great location for observing different whale species living around the area as well as dolphin species.
The main purpose of the park's creation was to protect leatherback sea turtles from profit-making egg poachers. From the months of October to May, female leatherback sea turtles come ashore on Playa Grande in order to lay their eggs and nest. Next to the park lies a thousand acres of protected forest area which includes mangroves and estuaries.
Up until a drought hit Costa Rica in the year 2007, the country obtained 99 percent of its electrical energy from clean sources. Due to the occurrence of the drought, Costa Rica was forced to burn fossil fuels in order to operate supplementary diesel power plants.
Because of its mountainous terrain and abundant rainfall Costa Rica mainly relies on hydroelectric power for a source of energy.
Other Forms of Clean Energy
Hydropower accounts for 78% of all of Costa Rica's energy needs, wind and biomass systems account for 3%, and geothermal accounts for 13%. Costa Rica Electricity has issued plans to expand the use of geothermal energy, increase wind generation, and explore solar energy.
Costa Rica is one of the countries in Latin American with the most wind turbines installed. The country has a bright future in wind energy because of the favorable high winds it receives.
The Costa Rican government has funded a $958 million project in order to push towards geothermal energy becoming another main source of energy. The Japanese International Cooperation Agency and the European Bank has loaned $600 million towards the project. A large reason why the government can fund this project is because the country has not had a military since the year 1948. Therefore, all the money which normally would be spent on defense goes towards renewable energy projects.
A Remarkable Achievement
In the year 2015 in the month of March, Costa Rica announced that it had been running for 75 days on purely renewable energy sources. This huge accomplishment was a shock to the world and the news soon spread throughout the globe. Today, the country is still currently running on 100 percent clean energy.
Despite recent successes, Costa Rica still faces many challenges. Deforestation occurs with continued urban expansion, agricultural development, and illegal logging. Unique native species are threatened by poachers and invasive species.
Electricity runs on clean energy but fossil fuels are still used in transportation, a problem as the transportation sector grows in direct proportion with the success of ecotourism.
The entire ecosystem of Costa Rica may be thrown out of balance with the growing issue of climate change. In short, all the problems of Costa Rica are far from being completely resolved.
The Costa Rican's government's most ambitious goal is to attain carbon neutrality by 2021 which explains the large push towards clean energy sources and efforts at reforestation. The recent 75 days of clean electricity demonstrates their progress.
Other goals include preserving larger tracts of marine life zones, reducing the amount of waste produced by manufacturing, and increasing sustainability through economically feasible means.
Costa Rica as a Role Model
Costa Rica is a nation which should be held up to the world as a leader to follow in an era of environmental degradation. Hopefully, the United States, through close cooperation with this small nation, may learn a few lessons on sustainability and coming to terms with the environment on which we all depend.
Many of the existing parks are understaffed and lack adequate funding. Marine conservation lags behind successes on land.