Uncategorized

Restoring Mangroves & Managing the Mangrove Fern

Blogpost written by Luis Carlos Solis, Technical Assistant


The mangrove fern, an opportunist in disturbed environments

Mangroves are one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world. Unfortunately, mangroves in Costa Rica are no exception –  every day, mangroves around the country are devastated due to human activity, despite being declared protected areas . There are more than 80 protected mangroves identified in Costa Rica, representing approximately 41,002 hectares (101 318 acres), of which 99% are located in the Pacific. Just north of the Osa,  Térraba Sierpe National Wetland stands out as the most extensive mangrove in the country, with an area greater than 16,000 hectares (39 537 acres) – representing almost 40% of the mangroves reported for the entire country!

Terraba- Sierpe Wetland

Terraba- Sierpe Wetland from above by Frank Uhlig

 

The Térraba Sierpe National Wetland was declared internationally important  in 1995 by the International Convention on Ramsar Wetlands and through the Costa Rican Forestry Law. Through this designation, it became prohibited to cut or exploit the timber resources of this ecosystem. Prior to this in the 1970’s, timber was legally extracted in this area for the production of coal, firewood and construction materials, as well as bark for tannins and molluscs. This, combined with a large illegal extraction decimated much of this valuable mangrove forest.

In the 1980’s, the extraction and use of wood products from Térraba Sierpe Wetland led to a massive establishment of the mangrove fern Acrostichum aureum –  a native species that has a tendency to become overabundant with lots of light. In a healthy mangrove ecosystem, this mangrove fern coexists and is regulated by the shade of the large mangrove trees.  However, once mangrove trees are cut, the fern takes advantage of the light and space and becomes difficult to eradicate. High densities of this fern then prevent smaller mangrove saplings to grow and to establish healthy mangrove trees. Thus, in order to restore the mangrove ecosystem back to a more natural state, active restoration strategies must include removal of this aggressive fern.

 

mangrove fern

Mangrove fern is regulated by mangrove trees. In a healthy ecosystem, the fern is more easily managed and lives in balance.

 

mangrove fern

Without the presence of mangrove trees, the mangrove fern takes over. As an opportunistic species, this fern becomes overly abundant and grows very tall.

 

As Osa Conservation has been committed to protecting and restoring the Térraba Sierpe National Wetland, we plan to restore 50 hectares (20 acres) of mangroves that are currently occupied by the Acrostichum fern. As part of our new project called “Effective Strengthening of Mangrove Ecosystems in Costa Rica (Terraba Sierpe) and Improvement of the Quality of Life of the Local Coastal Population,” we aim to restore the structure and functions of this important mangrove ecosystem and help empower local communities  to responsibly manage the non-timber resources offered by the mangrove.

img_1009_resized
We had a wonderful time recently celebrating this project. Working a with a wonderful group of partners, we are grateful to all of the participants who came out to support the project and we look forward to continuing to collaborate on this important effort to protect and restore this vital ecosystem.

 

proyecto-restauracion_resized

Uncategorized

Collective Action for Conservation: Osa’s Camera Trap Network

Blog written by Juan Carlos Crus Diaz, Feline Program Coordinator

I can clearly remember:  It was a hot but humid morning, which is common in this area during the dry season. As we walk through the rainforest, we struggle to keep our pace on the trail – it is steep and the humidity make us feel like we are running a marathon. We come to the last hill and finally reach the ridge of the mountain chain that goes through Piedras Blancas National Park. We summit the top and can see both the dense forest on one side and the ocean in the other. The views are amazing!

This location on the Golfo Dulce in the Osa Peninsula is part of the property of Saladero Eco-Lodge, where the owners are excited about partnering with us to study Osa’s wildcats. We strategically place a camera trap along their property on the mountain ridge in hopes to obtain photographic evidence of the mammals, especially wildcats, that rely on these habitat routes to travel long distances.

 

First camera trap photo from Saladero Ecolodge of a jaguar on the property.

First camera trap photo (2014) from Saladero Ecolodge of a jaguar on the property.

After leaving the cameras in place for several months, we returned to retrieve the first photographs –  the results were revealing! Pumas and peccaries were easily spotted on the footage, highlighting the ongoing vital predator-prey relationship in the area. There were also an array of different mammals, birds and other wildlife. What biodiversity!

Great Curassow (Crax rubra) caught on an early camera trap in 2014.

Great Curassow (Crax rubra) caught on an early camera trap in 2014.

 

Collared peccary (Pecari tajacu) caught on an early camera trap in 2014.

Collared peccary (Pecari tajacu) caught on an early camera trap in 2014.

Since placing these first camera traps in 2014, more ecolodges have joined this collective effort. In 2017, partners joined forces around the Osa and launched the “Osa Camera Trap Network” –  one of the most diverse and collaborative research efforts in Central America. Year after year, more people have started to notice the importance of monitoring mammal populations that serve to maintain the integrity of these ecosystems. Communities that once only saw ecotourism development from afar, are now becoming a part of it. Community groups have formed important fauna monitoring projects and more locals have brought ecotourism to their communities where more people can benefit. And, most exciting, these local communities –  along with ecolodges, private owners, universities, governmental institutions and tourism agencies-  have joined together to study the wildcats as part of  this important Osa Camera Trap Network.

Members of the Osa Camera Trap Network from “Rancho Quemado” installing camera traps.

Members of the Osa Camera Trap Network from “Rancho Quemado” installing camera traps.

 

But studying wildcats is difficult. It requires covering large areas and a great amount of manpower.  Four years after the installation of the first camera trap in Saladero Ecolodge, I find myself walking through the dense forest in the boundary of Corcovado National Park and the community of “Los Planes.” Guided by two members of the community, we look for a suitable place  to install their camera trap station. As we sit on a fallen tree and discuss placing a camera trap at this location, I think how much we have achieved in the past four years in order to make this collaborative region-wide initiative a reality.

Members of the Osa Camera Trap Network from the community group of “Los Planes” installing camera traps.

Members of the Osa Camera Trap Network from the community group of “Los Planes” installing camera traps.

This year, the Osa Camera Trap Network is setting up more than 200 camera traps all over the Osa Peninsula!  This is the biggest array of camera traps ever carried out in Central America and importantly, it does not just belong to a single institution but rather to a collective group of stakeholders pursuing the same goal: to generate the scientific information necessary to conserve wildcats and prey.

 

2017 camera trap photo of a jaguar on Osa Conservation's property

2017 camera trap photo of a jaguar on Osa Conservation’s property

Times are changing and methods and approaches for research should change as well. We are in a special time to show that collective efforts can bring good results when it comes to solve problems that concerns to everyone. There is a saying in Costa Rica “Union makes force” but the one I like the most states “An image says more than a thousand words.

To learn more about Osa’s Camera Trap Network, as well as Osa Conservation’s Wildcat Conservation Program, please visit our program website.

Uncategorized

Happy World Wetlands Day!

Blogpost written by Luis Carlos Solis, Asistencia Técnica

 

World Wetlands Day is celebrated on February 2 of each year, the date on which the Convention on Wetlands was adopted. Wetland is all those areas that remain flooded or at least, with soils saturated with water for long periods of time – thus, water defines its structure and ecological functions. Wetlands are vital for human survival. As one of the most productive ecosystems on the planet, they harbor a biological diversity and water sources on which countless species of plants and animals depend for subsistence. However, the surface and quality of wetlands continue to decline worldwide, so the benefits that wetlands provide to human beings are in danger.

img_2386

Mangroves in the wetlands along Rio Esquinas, Costa Rica

Due to the endangered condition of wetlands worldwide, on February 2, 1971, the Convention on Wetlands was adopted in the town of Ramsar, Iran. This convention is the first intergovernmental treaty that serves as a framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. The convention includes lakes and rivers, underground aquifers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands, peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and low tides, mangroves and other coastal areas, coral reefs, and artificial sites such as fish ponds, rice fields, reservoirs and saltworks. To date, the list includes 2,200 designated “Ramsar sites” covering an area of more than 2.1 million square kilometers, an area larger than Mexico.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Térraba Sierpe wetlands in Costa Rica from above

 

In the case of Costa Rica, about 350 wetlands are reported, which cover 7% of the national territory; 12 of them are considered of global importance and therefore were declared as Ramsar Sites. One of these sites is the Térraba Sierpe National Wetland, located in the south of the country, which with an area of 32,000 hectares (79,073 acres) corresponds to the largest mangrove area in the country. Mangroves are one of the most productive ecosystems on the planet, offering a variety of services such as recreation, tourism, carbon capture, water purification, shelter for living beings and coastal protection.

 

max-and-luis-mangrove-boat

Osa Conservation staff assessing wetlands by boat.

Osa Conservation is dedicated to protecting these vital habitats. Currently, we are working in the Térraba Sierpe National Wetlands  on a project to  “strengthen the mangrove ecosystems and improve the quality of life of the coastal populations.” This project will help to actively restore 50 hectares of mangroves, working in conjunction with the Association of Fishermen and Marine Resources of Ajuntaderas y Afines (APREMAA), a local organization that is in charge of establishing mangrove nurseries and preparing the land. In addtion, the project  promotes sustainable practices regarding the extraction, processing and commercialization of mollusks in the wetlands. Efforts of this nature seek to preserve the services offered by wetlands through the sustainable use of their resources for the benefit of coastal marine communities.

 

 

Uncategorized

Osa’s First Junior Christmas Bird Count – Results Are In!

Blogpost by Luis Carlos Solis, Asistencia Técnica

We are excited to present the results of the “First Junior Christmas Bird Count, Península de Osa 2017” in conjunction with the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, Fundación Neotrópica and 16 educational centers in the Osa. During this special day, participants saw a total of 93 different species and 595 individual birds!

Throughout the event, school children learned about the importance of local and migratory birds and their habitat,  helping to create the next generation of guardians for Osa’s natural heritage. The logo of the event consisted of a Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera), which was selected due to its status as a wintering migratory bird in the Osa from Canada/United States and its threatened status, classified by the Red List IUCN due to the loss of its habitat from agricultural expansion.

xmas-count-logo

This First Christmas Junior Bird Count in the Osa was carried out on December 5 – 7, 2017 with the participation of 165 children from local schools.  In each of the 16 schools, children learned from a naturalist guide about why birds are important indicators of global health and they learned about the migratory Golden-winged Warbler as they colored the logo in creative ways.  Students then went out with the naturalist to walk around the school property looking for birds and registering all of the birds that they were able to see. Students learned how to properly use a scope and binoculars, to identify different bird species, and to record data from their sightings.

7046aad5-5b5b-4d07-8a5a-cfe96d309406

 

2b3b7acb-9260-432e-8280-3dc053e05f26

 

With the success of this First Christmas Bird Count, children were able to experience the beauty of nature while supporting research to monitor the health and long-term condition of bird populations worldwide.

701f75dd-7e23-431f-af58-bbf4f7cc0a7e

Many thanks to the support of the following institutions and organizations: Golfito Campus, UCR, Ficus Tours, Osa Birds: Research and Conservation, Osa Wild, Osa Dreamcatcher Tours, Utopia Drake Outdoors, Osa Birders Tours, Lapa Rios Ecolodge, Danta Corcovado Lodge, and the La Palma Academic College. Thank you very much for your collaboration!

Uncategorized

The first 24 hours as a volunteer

Blogpost written by Hanae Garrison,  Volunteer

4:30 am – I rise before the sun has woken up and while the nocturnal organisms are still out. I shove some food into my body in preparation of the day ahead. Another volunteer and I are staying at the cabins near the farm, where Osa Conservation grows much of their fresh vegetables, fruits, medicinal plants, and cares for their animals, restoration plots, botanic garden and much more.

5:00 am – After gearing up with our head lamps and day packs, we head out on the main road and walk for 25 minutes to the Biological Station. The stars shine through the trees and the hum of insects is more noticeable. Cars occasionally roll by with people starting their day before the sun’s heat gets too hot.

5:30 am – We meet up with Manuel Sánchez, the Sea Turtle Conservation Program Coordinator.  We hike through the woods as the sun begins to rise. He shows us a taste of what he does every morning to aid the survival of 4 species of endangered sea turtles – Olive Ridley, Green Sea Turtles, Leatherback, and Hawksbill (with the Olive Ridley and Green Sea Turtles being most common in the Osa). We look for threatened sea turtle nests along the beach and, when needed, the team will help excavate and transport the eggs to a protected hatchery, away from predators and poachers. When the time comes many weeks later, the baby turtles are released on the beach with enough distance to imprint on the sand while making their way to the waves, helping ensure their return to this same beach as adults.

blog-photo1_-h-garrison-volunteer

The hatchery allows sea turtle nests to incubate safely, without the risk of predation or poachers.

6:45 am – We release two Olive Ridley nests containing around 100 turtles. All of them safely reach the waves, some faster than others. Crossing the open beach is often the most difficult part of the turtles’ journey.  With this relocation and careful release, we help provide a safe passage for the tiny turtles across the beach and increase their chances of survival. In the wild, it’s estimated that only 1 in 1,000 makes it to adulthood. As the waves crash onto the shore and sweep the sea turtles into the water, you can see their tiny black heads bouncing up and down and then diving down under the current.

 

blog-photo2_-h-garrison-volunteer

Baby sea turtles imprint on the sand while they make their way into the ocean

8:00 am – We make it back to the biological station and fill up on some beans and rice, a staple in our diet.

11:00 am – I spot some leaf cutter ants working away carrying their characteristic green pieces of leaves, sometimes as much as three times its weight. One after another, they move along, wearing away the grass and carving unbelievable paths along the forest floor.

12:00 pm – We eat a much-needed delicious meal of rice, beans, salad, banana chips and a glass of fresh lemonade.

1:00 pm – I head out on a trail with Sam to conduct field research on spider monkeys and their “latrine sites.”. We hike for about 40 minutes until we reach a turn in the path under a large tree. Spider monkeys prefer to sleep in trees with interlocking branches near their feeding trees and choose one spot where they all excrete their waste, also known as a “latrine site.” All day, they jump around from tree to tree, snacking on fruit. As a result, we can tell the diet of the spider monkey by going through their waste. The spider monkeys, thus, become primary seed dispersers and the “latrine site” can be identified by many tree saplings growing in one area.

 

blog-photo3_-h-garrison-volunteer

Researchers can determine the diet and ecological role of spider monkeys by examining what grows at the “latrine sites.”

2:00 pm – Our task was to observe the spider monkey poop and notice if ants appeared – which in theory, should attract poison dart frogs. Although field biology can seem repetitive and boring at times, it is extremely rewarding when you find what you’re looking for after patiently waiting. Great to see your work pay off!  As we sit there taking notes, I listen to the sounds around me and start to notice small things in the forest. A dung beetle crawls by, proudly rolling his perfect spherical ball of monkey poop. The beetles are a lot smaller than I had imagined but the impact they have on the forest as secondary seed dispersers is extraordinary!

3:45 pm – A howler monkey starts to howl near us. Sam tells me that howlers howl for only a few reasons: As a “wake-up call,” an “I’m going to sleep” howl, a “territorial” scream, and an “I’m wet and mad about it so I’m going to complain” cry. By this time, the rain had started coming down. We hadn’t felt it much before because the trees had caught most of it. But soon it got darker out and the rain got stronger. so we headed back.

The rest of the evening was composed of relaxing, showering, preparing and eating dinner, and getting to bed early for an early morning. The cold refreshing shower was definitely a highlight of my day along with the fresh pineapple with dinner.

Uncategorized

Farming alongside apex predators

Blogpost written by Eleanor Flatt, Restoration and Biodiversity Research Field Assistant

Many intensely biodiverse tropical rainforests are not only inhabited by wonderful wildlife but also by people who call it their home. In these areas, farms offer opportunity to grow crops or maintain livestock in order to provide income for their families. In an ideal world, these two landscapes would be separated and conflicts would not exist. However, located where the rainforest meets farm, there is a matrix where the flora and fauna interact and where human-wildlife conflicts can occur.

steam rolling

In the Osa, we witnessed first-hand this fascinating matrix between farm and wildlife when we recently heard that a goat had been killed by a predator on our farm. Interestingly though, when we arrived at the farm we found that not only one goat had been killed but two! But by what?

To investigate this, we set up a camera trap near each goat, hoping the predator would return to collect their kill. As day turned to night, we used the lights on our phones to check the final camera and navigate through the field back to the car. As we were approaching the car, we looked up and found two big beady eyes shining at us – IT WAS A PUMA!  This was my very first sighting of a puma and we were only a couple of meters away! Laying down, the puma observed us as we observed him while we walked past. We quickly hopped into the truck as he got up and headed towards the goat. We watched as the puma approached the goat and dragged away the carcass to enjoy the dinner alone. What a very exciting experience for us to watch!

Photo taken from our camera trap

Photo of the puma taken by our camera trap

Yet, this young male puma wasn’t the only visitors to the goats. Through our camera traps, we were able to observe a common opossum, yellow headed caracara, black vulture and the magnificent king vulture – all feasting on these recently killed meals.

Photo of King Vulture taken by our camera trap

Photo of King Vulture taken by our camera trap

Observing this very real and natural event brought mixed emotions. While it was a sad loss for the farm, it was such an important wildlife interaction to witness. Seeing this first hand, brought to light the challenges facing farmers in  areas where they are trying to co-exist with important apex predators.

Predation of livestock by a wild cat is a monetary loss for a farmer that could mean not being able to provide food for the family. This challenge of farming alongside apex predators in a rainforest system is not only found in Costa Rica, but globally. Unfortunately, this type of human-wildlife conflict can often result in the killing of these apex predators to protect one’s farm.

Osa Conservations strives to build a balance between healthy ecological systems with sustainable practices. Our wildlife-friendly farm offers opportunities to see not only how to grow sustainably, but also within the context of the greater ecosystem through agroforestry and rewilding. Yet, as we can see, farming alongside apex predators is no easy feat. As we continue to use the farm, we look for opportunities to better understand these challenges and to find solutions for tropical farming.

 

Uncategorized

Unexpected guests for supper

Blogpost written by Dr. Andrew Whitworth, Director of Restoration Ecology & Biodiversity Conservation

 

Last night, as I prepared my evening feed (rice with something), I heard a strange and unfamiliar squeaking sound from outside. I grabbed my head torch (aka.flashlight) and out I went. This is what I found.

viper1

Eyelash pit viper starting its meal (Photo by Andrew Whitworth)

 

I couldn’t believe it. Ever since moving to live on the Osa Peninsula in February, I have been desperate to see the stunning eyelash pit viper (Bothriechis schlegelii), but so far they had eluded me. This isn’t surprising considering their awesome camouflage- forest green broken up with strokes and flecks of red and yellow. However, this chappie had been given away, by the poor little robber frog (Craugastor fitzingeri) who was now … supper.

I rushed back inside, still barefoot, to grab my camera; and for the next twenty five minutes, watched and photographed (without flash!) while the whole process unfolded. Many people believe that snakes can dislocate their jaws, but this isn’t really true. They do however have some unbelievably loose fitting and complex bone structures in the jaw and head. These can expand away from each other and allow the left and right side of the jaws to move independently; left first, then the right and then the left, and so on and so on…until they finally swallow their supper whole!

What was strange about this encounter for me was that the snake ate the frog from the back first. Most snake species will actually make an effort to search out the head of their prey first, and begin swallowing from there, to ensure no problems in fitting awkward pointing limbs in their mouths. Maybe this froggy was small and flexible enough to pose no issues.

viper2

Eyelash pit viper eating its meal, legs first (Photo by Andrew Whitworth)

 

What was very cool though was that as the right sided fang of the snake moved along, a young secondary fang was visible, tucked away in the protective sheath. Vipers frequently lose these fangs and so new ones grow quickly behind. These cheeky little vipers are never caught without their weapons, just in case a meal is rightly available.

viper3

Eyelash pit viper, close-up of the secondary fang (Photo by  Andrew Whitworth)

 

It wasn’t long until all that was left … was a foot –  just hanging from the viper’s mouth.

viper4

Eyelash pit viper, finishing up its meal (Photo by Dr. Andrew Whitworth)

 

The frog then travelled down through the snakes body, pushed by the rippling muscles and inner organs, where over the coming few days, intense gastric juices would digest the frog, bones and all. This froggy snack could actually sustain this little snake for the next month at least, if food is scarce-  a feat I am extremely jealous of… as I seem to need to feed every couple of hours or so.

viper5

Eyelash pit viper, digesting its meal (Photo by Andrew Whitworth)

 

According to my neighbour and reforestation fanatic, Agustin Mendoza, these snakes aren’t so common in the low lying areas of the peninsula next to the ocean. They typically thrive higher up on Cerro Osa, where there is a cool refreshing breeze; who says snakes aren’t smart?! What an incredible snake and one of my top five herping moments in my life so far!

snake_end

Eyelash pit viper (Photo by  Andrew Whitworth)

(To see some of Andy’s free amphibian and reptile field guides from the Amazon, click here, here and here.)

Uncategorized

Celebrating Endangered Species Day! Endemic and Endangered: Stories of a frog and a tanager.

Blogpost written by Alejandra Rojas, Naturalist Guide and Avian Program Coordinator

 

     black-cheeked-ant-tanager-_low-qualityPhoto 1:  The endemic & endangered Golfodulcean Poison-arrow Frog  and Black-cheeked Ant Tanager (Photo credit: Manuel Sanchez Mendoza)

 

What does a Golfodulcean Poison-arrow Frog and a Black-cheeked Ant-tanager have in common?

Not only are they endemic to the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica, but they are also endangered – a term used to describe when there are so few individuals surviving that the species is at risk of no longer existing in the wild.  There are many reasons that could drive a species to this status, including: habitat loss, illegal pet trade, introduction of exotic species, diseases, illegal hunting or overfishing.

 

Why does the Osa have so many endemic species?

Because of its geological formation where it evolved as an island before merging with the Costa Rica mainland (nearly 2 million years ago), the Osa Peninsula harbors a high level of endemic species. Endemic species are those which are found exclusively in one location in the world. This endemism, together with the immense concentration of life forms found in this region, is the reason why the Osa is globally known as a biodiversity hotspot and has such an important conservation value.

map-of-costa-rica

Why are these endemic species endangered?

Although the Golfodulcean Poison-arrow Frog and the Black-cheeked Ant-tanager can be found in areas close to the Osa Peninsula, populations are isolated, and in the case of the frogs, are considered a rarity. According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (2017) both species are endangered because of their small distribution range, confined to protected areas, where logging and continuously habitat loss around these areas  are the major threats to both species nowadays. In the case of the frog, water pollution due to gold mining in the Osa is also a huge threat.

 

What is it like to experience these endemic & endangered species?

If you have never had the chance to explore nature in the Osa and see these animals, I invite you to go on an imaginary hike: It´s 5:15 am and we embrace an early morning hike into the rainforest. Binoculars in hand, a nice flute-like sound indulge our senses: it is the Black-cheeked Ant-tanager, but we have not seen it yet. This bird performs this particular song only in the early morning, sometimes accompanied by the howler monkeys´ chorus.

Time passes and a chatter-like sound captures our attention. Should we look up to the canopy? No, we better focus in the understory, where this species inhabit. As all tanagers, the Black-cheeked Ant-tanager fly in family groups and forage in the lower levels of the forest in search of small arthropods and fruits- a behavior that makes them important for controlling defoliating arthropods and also for dispersing seeds. Wait! Be careful with these bunch of army ants passing through the trail; let´s find a good place to enjoy the show:  the Black-cheeked Ant-tanagers are following the “ant swarm” with a mixed flock. We watch for 10 minutes until they disappear in the vegetation, following the path of the ants.

habia-atrimaxillaris-black-cheeked-ant-tanager_lowquality
Photo 2: Black-cheeked Ant Tanager (Photo credit: Manuel Sanchez Mendoza)

As we keep walking in the rainforest another sound captures our attention:  the Golfodulcean Poison-arrow frog-  a diurnal species (active both day and night).  We can hear two calls but they are far away; maybe if we move towards a creek we can find them. Indeed, as we approach a small creek, we spot two males calling together on top of a log! These frogs are very territorial and we are witnessing a territorial display. Their colors (known in biology as aposematic coloration) are warning us that they are highly toxic. Continuing our walk along the creek, we find another male, but this time carrying tiny larvae on his back. He will soon deposit them in the water for their next life stage. Our hike concludes and we are thrilled to have successfully found these two endangered species that can only be seen in the Osa.

golfodulcean-poison-arrow
Photo 3:  The endemic & endangered Golfodulcean Poison-arrow Frog (Photo credit: Manuel Sanchez Mendoz

Why are endangered species important?

Experiencing nature is one way we can understand the importance of protecting endangered species. Each species, endangered or not, has a role to play in the greater ecosystem, whether by dispersing seeds, controlling other species, or by directly helping other species maintain the ecosystem health. These two endemic species- the Golfodulcean Poison-arrow Frog and the Black-cheeked Ant-tanager- are also important because they act as umbrella species. This means that if we protect their habitat we are also protecting the habitat of other important species, including other endangered animals and plants as the Jaguar (Panthera onca), the Scarlet macaw (Ara macao) and the Nazareno or Purpleheart (Peltogyne purpurea) found in the Osa.

Is it too late? Not yet!

Do we still have time to save the Golfodulcean Poison-arrow Frog and the Black-cheeked Ant-tanager? Yes, but we need ongoing efforts to conserve the vital ecosystems that support these animals and the surrounding biodiversity. Because these species are restricted to protected areas and they know no political boundaries, it is even more important to prioritize the buffer areas, forest patches and biological corridors that connect their habitat and are the last stronghold for their survival.

Please help Osa Conservation continue to save these amazing species and so much more! 100% of your donations goes toward helping conserve the habitats and ecosystems on which these species and so many more rely! You can visit our page here to make a donation or visit here to learn about visiting the Osa and seeing these incredible creatures for yourself! Every effort counts!

Uncategorized

Celebrating Migratory Birds! Migratory birds, wetlands and people in the Osa Peninsula

Blogpost written by Alejandra Rojas, Naturalist Guide and Avian Program Coordinator

Every year, thousands of birds around the world start a long journey that is fundamental to their survival: migration. Each species has its particularity: they fly in flocks or by their own, during the day or the night, they rest or they fly restless, large distances or short distances. Despite their different migration strategies, all of these birds have something in common: they face challenges to survive their “flyway” – a term used to describe the route regularly used by large numbers of migrating birds.

One of the biggest threats to many migratory birds is habitat loss along the flyway due to fragmentation, pollution and human development. Wetlands, in particular, are especially fragile and important areas for a high diversity of migratory birds. Unfortunately, wetlands are also among the most endangered ecosystems worldwide, largely due to loss of forest coverage.

 

ruddy-turnstone

Wetlands, such as mangroves, are one of the most productive ecosystems in the world. They provide key ecosystem services such as water storage, nutrients production, protection against storms, stabilization of coastal areas, purification of water and retention of sediments. Humans also obtain other benefits directly from wetlands, such as fishing, aquaculture and tourism opportunities that provide an economic income for local communities.

Indeed, there is a special connection between birds and mangroves! Because of  their sensitivity to environmental changes and the impacts on their flyway habitats, migratory birds are important biological indicators that help us understand the ecological health of an area and can help inform conservation planning.

The Osa Peninsula has large extensions of mangroves, riparian forests and estuarine lagoons that act as a temporary home for aquatic birds that visit Costa Rica during their migration and stop sites. Ducks (Anatidae), herons and egrets (Ardeidae), plovers and sandpipers (Scolopacidae and Charadriidae), terns and gulls (Lariidae) and warblers (Parulidae) are between the most commonly seen migrants in the mangroves.

 

img_9209

Conservation efforts like those of Osa Conservation, which include the restoration of wetlands, help ensure the sustainable restoration of migratory bird habitat on which so many species rely. Through education and local awareness efforts, Osa Conservation encourages the involvement of local communities to help mitigate the negative impacts of human activities and to share the message of the importance of migratory birds and their habitat.  Conserving wetlands for migratory birds is crucial for their survival and ours: Their Future is our Future.

 

img_9207

 

Uncategorized

Volunteering with Rios Saludables

Blogpost written by Alexander Cotnoir, Volunteer with Rios Saludables Program

 

Hello everybody! My name is Alexander Cotnoir, and before I share a snapshot of my work at Osa Conservation thus far along with some of the most exciting experiences I’ve had working with the Ríos Saludables Program, I’d like to introduce myself and share why I decided to join the Ríos Saludables Program as a volunteer over the course of the next few months.

 

img_0911

 

I am currently a sophomore at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, pursuing a degree in biology and environmental studies. Despite my current academic pursuits, my passion for ecology and sustainable agricultural/development practices started long before my entrance into higher education. During my childhood, I enjoyed fishing, hunting, swimming, and exploring the great outdoors along the Quebec border in northern Vermont, and later working for a local branch of the U.S.D.A. and birdwatching with my sister. My passion for the intersection between land use practices, native/local cultures, and conservation was fostered through summer jobs (as a Nutrient Management Plan Intern for the U.S.D.A.’s Natural Resources Conservation District), where I worked with farmers to minimize nutrient loading from dairy farms into local watersheds. I have also fostered an interest for conservation and land-use through conversations with my grandfather, who is a Tribal Leader of the Coosuk Band of the Abenaki Nation working to manage our tribal lands in northern Vermont. At Dartmouth, my interests expanded with courses ranging from “Writing Natural History,” to “Climate Change and Agriculture” and “Native Peoples and Environmental Change” which have allowed me to explore the socio-cultural and economic aspects of environmental problems.

 

rios2_alex-cotnoir

(Heading to our first sampling site at a cattle ranch near Puerto Jiménez)

 

As I was searching for an off-term opportunity to gain field experience in biology and environmental science, the Ríos Saludables Program appeared to be the perfect opportunity. Given my previous experiences with macro-invertebrate sampling and hydrological systems, I knew the Ríos Saludables Program would be an ideal opportunity to continue exploring watershed science, as well as to gain new insights into community-oriented conservation initiatives in a foreign country. Aside from my interests in gaining field experience, becoming involved in a community-oriented conservation program, and applying my studies in biology and environmental science, I also saw volunteering with Ríos as an amazing opportunity to practice my beginning-level Spanish, and to explore the amazing flora and fauna that call Osa’s rainforests home.

rios1_alex-cotnoir

(Working at the Osa Verde organic farm to plant native rainforest tree seedlings. These seedlings will be utilized in a number of reforestation plots on former cattle ranching lands)

Although I’ve only been living at Osa Conservation’s biological station for three weeks, I have already observed that the Osa Peninsula rightly deserves National Geographic’s description as the “most biologically intense place on earth.” Within my first week and a half, I spotted scarlet macaws, toucans, black-throated trogans, green and Olive Ridley sea turtles, a false coral snake, four species of monkeys, peccaries, a tamandua, and even a puma that decided to walk down one of the forest trails in front of me (I was told that this is a rare sight that many locals often don’t see in their lifetimes!). Aside from feeling an immediate sense of awe at the plethora of flora and fauna that inhabit the vibrant forests around the biological station, I’ve also found the local community’s excitement about their unique natural landscape very refreshing and conducive for fostering discussions about plants, animals, and conservation initiatives alike. Despite the many mistakes I make using my Spanish, I have never felt embarrassed because the people are all so kind and appreciate the attempts of Spanish beginners.

 

rios3_alexcotnoir

(Explaining nitrate test procedures to Alex, a local farm co-op employee, at the spring which supplies drinking water to his hometown)

 

 

Thus far, one of the most exciting experiences working for the Ríos Saludables Program was a trip Rachael and I recently took to sample near a springhead feeding water to a community in Venegaz. Aside from the breathtaking beauty of the Costa Rican countryside, with its winding red-dirt roads carving their way through farmsteads and massive ajo trees, I had a great time sampling macroinvertebrates with Rachael and a local community member who joined us at the stream. Almost immediately after we arrived at the sight, I spotted a green and black poison dart frog hopping in the leaves beside the brook, which the gentlemen excitedly identified for us and shared some of his expertise on the animal. The entire time we spent sampling the stream was enjoyable due to the gentleman’s enthusiasm, my attempts to explain nitrate tests in Spanish, and the tangible connection between watershed and community health that was evident as we sampled near the springhead water collection tank.

Over the course of the next two months, I hope to help standardize Ríos Saludables protocols so that the sampling data can be applied to a larger academic context. I also look forward to doing community outreach with students and local community members, and finding ways to better assess the impact of agricultural activities and road crossings near Puerto Jiménez. I am also excited to help establish watershed testing locations along several additional rivers in the area.

Hasta luego,
Alexander

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Interested in volunteering with Osa Conservation? Learn more here about our various volunteer opportunities!

Data Entry Services India