By Sally French
SANTA ROSA, Costa Rica – Learning is alive in Santa Rosa National Park, a wildlife refuge that attracts scientists and ecotourists alike.
For park employee Johan Martinez, the park is a haven for information, both inside the walls of classrooms located in the park and outside.
“With research, we can know about specific species,” Martinez said. “There are people working in these kinds of forests looking to find information about viruses that are occurring in plants that could affect humans, plantations or other natural resources.
The dry forest is especially interesting for research because it goes 5-7 months each year without rain, causing temperatures to rise, seasonal rivers to dry up, plants to lose their leaves and species to move to more humid areas, Martinez said.
The Spanish destroyed much of the forest, which initially covered 550,000 square kilometers along the Pacific coast from Mexico to Panama, upon their arrival in Mesoamerica, Martinez said. Logging, development and agriculture reduced this stretch of forest to 2 percent of its original coverage, making it one of the most endangered ecosystems in the neotropics.
Now, Santa Rosa National Park is the largest remaining protected dry forest in the neotropics.
“There is a lot of information in this forest,” Martinez said.