By Sean Roberts
COLUMBIA, Mo. — In the forest areas of tropical Costa Rica, plants get destroyed. Fires, people, construction; a variety of things bring this devastation. Does this mean all those species are gone? Will those trees, animals or any species that used to be there be lost forever?
Rest easy, not all destroyed life means extinction. With the help of the preservationists, the forest may live again, due to succession.
Costa Rica has played victim to deforestation in the dry forest, the rain forest and the mangroves. Scientists and locals have been fighting to preserve what’s left. There is more than just the species that remain to preserve, but also the opportunity to rebuild what’s been lost.
Over time, if the conditions are right and destruction doesn’t continue, the receded forests can spread their seed, either by wind dispersion or animal dispersion. Think of it like the waves of the ocean. At low tide, the water only reaches so far, but when the tide gets higher it pushes further upon the shore.
Wind pushes the seeds further across the damaged lands. Those seeds then grow and produce new seeds and the process repeats. When the former forest land has reached a process where seeds have covered and taken root in the full area, it is like the high tide of the ocean.
Animals can move the process along as well. Insects moving pollen around or animals eating seeds and then relieving themselves of those seeds in a different area. They move further along much like the ocean analogy, as the forest progresses and grows.
As the forest begins to grow back, there will be more food. More habitat. More species. All the different species of these tropical areas will be able to reproduce and live like they once did. For example the panther population is beginning to grow.
It’s an optimistic idea, just letting the forest grow back, but it can take over a hundred years for this succession to become full like in its previous life. Sure, the animals that strive in those habitats will move further and reproduce, sure they will have more food to consume but the truth is that it’s the preservationists that help make this happen. It will be our goal in Costa Rica to see the progress they’ve made and learn how they manage such an incredible task.