But that wasn’t always the case. During the last century, a lot of the rainforest was cut down for monocultures and grazing ground. In the 80ies only 20% of the original forest was left. To change this devastating course, the country installed nature reserves and encouraged reforestation. It is actually illegal now to chop down forests without the approval from authorities since 1996. This way Costa Rica successfully transformed from the country with the highest deforestation in central America to the first tropical country to reverse deforestation. Today, the rainforest covers again 50% of the country. However, reforestation has slowed down in recent years and and Costa Rica and it’s nature are still facing challenges like pesticides for the coffee, banana and pineapple production, clearing of woodland for cattle farming and illegal tropical wood cutting.
One of the organisations battling for more trees and biodiversity is Naturefund. All over the world Naturefund is on a mission to buy land, restoring and protecting it to regreen the world and strengthen biodiversity. In Costa Rica Naturefund together with Beuth University of Applied Sciences Berlin, wants to establish a bridge of intact rainforest connecting two of the national parks. Forest bridges function as corridors for wildlife to travel safely between habitats. Increasing the total area of intact forest, they give a significant boost to the biodiversity. Forest bridges are an ingenious measure, as they have a huge positive impact on biodiversity compared to simply regreening an unconnected area of the same size. Additionally, the planted trees will capture and store CO2.
Forest bridges boost biodiversity by connecting existing forests and thereby increasing the total forest area
The two national parks Naturefund wants to connect are in the south of Costa Rica. Both are special, as they are comprised of old primal forests and sport a rich biodiversity. The first, Corcovado National Park is located on the Osa Peninsula on the west coast of Costa Rica. It one of the last lowland rainforests in the world. It is considered the crown jewel of Costa Rica’s National Parks and very popular for ecotourists with its biodiversity and endangered animal species such as the jaguar, Baird’s tapir, harpy eagle and all of Costa Rica’s four monkey species. The other, La Amistad International Park, covers the Talamanca mountain Range in of Costa Rica and its neighbour Panama. It is home to a remarkable 600 species of birds as well as five species of big cats: pumas, ocelots, margay, jaguars, and jaguarundis. Because of its difficult terrain the park remains largely unexplored.
Only 80 km separate the two parks. In between grow various remnants of rainforest, which Naturefund wants to buy. This will save the old giant rainforest trees from deforestation and thereby prevents the release of CO2 into the atmosphere. Additionally, Naturefund seeks to reforest unused pastures and thus connect the forest remnants by planting 100.000 trees. Over its lifetime one rainforest tree will capture about 500 kg of CO2 (Quelle) resulting in 50.000 t of captured CO2 in total.
On the way to the reforesting old pastures © Naturefund