Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

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Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Reserva Biológica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde
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Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
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Map of Costa Rica
Location Puntarenas and Alajuela, Costa Rica
Nearest city Monteverde
Coordinates 10°18′00″N84°49′00″W / 10.30000°N 84.81667°W / 10.30000; -84.81667 Coordinates: 10°18′00″N84°49′00″W / 10.30000°N 84.81667°W / 10.30000; -84.81667
Area10,500 ha (26,000 acres)
Hummingbird Biodiversity in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Hummingbird Biodiversity in the Costa Rican Cloud Forest.jpg
Hummingbird Biodiversity in the Monteverde Cloud Forest

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (Reserva Biológica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde) is a Costa Rican reserve located along the Cordillera de Tilarán within the Puntarenas and Alajuela provinces. Named after the nearby town of Monteverde and founded in 1972, [1] the Reserve consists of over 10,500 hectares (26,000 acres) of cloud forest, the reserve is visited by roughly 70,000 visitors a year. The Reserve consists of 6 ecological zones, 90% of which are virgin forest. [2] An extremely high biodiversity, consisting of over 2,500 plant species (including the most orchid species in a single place), 100 species of mammals, 400 bird species, 120 reptilian and amphibian species, and thousands of insects, has drawn both scientists and tourists alike.

Puntarenas Canton in Costa Rica

Puntarenas (Spanish pronunciation: [puntaˈɾenas]; is the capital and largest city in the Province of Puntarenas, on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.

Alajuela Canton in Alajuela Province, Costa Rica

Alajuela is the second largest city in Costa Rica. It is also the capital of Alajuela Province.

Monteverde Place in Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Monteverde, Costa Rica is a small community in Puntarenas, Costa Rica, located in the Cordillera de Tilarán mountain range. Roughly a four-hour drive from the Central Valley, Monteverde is one of the country's major ecotourism destinations. The area is host to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and several other natural attractions, which draw considerable numbers of tourists and naturalists.



The 1950s, First Farmers in the Area Arrive

In 1951, several dozen Quakers (from 11 families) from Alabama seeking to live as farmers moved to and purchased land in Costa Rica. [3] This was primarily to avoid the Korean War draft, an obligation which contradicted Quaker pacifist ideology. They chose Costa Rica because it had just abolished its army just three years earlier. [4] It was the Quakers who named the place Monteverde (“Green Mountain”), for round the year green plants. [4]

Quakers family of religious movements

Quakers, also called Friends, are a historically Christian group of religious movements formally known as the Religious Society of Friends, Society of Friends or Friends Church. Members of the various Quaker movements are all generally united in a belief in the ability of each human being to experientially access "the light within", or "that of God in every one".

Alabama State of the United States of America

Alabama is a state in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama is the 30th largest by area and the 24th-most populous of the U.S. states. With a total of 1,500 miles (2,400 km) of inland waterways, Alabama has among the most of any state.

Costa Rica Country in Central America

Costa Rica, officially the Republic of Costa Rica, is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the northeast, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, and Ecuador to the south of Cocos Island. It has a population of around 5 million in a land area of 51,060 square kilometers. An estimated 333,980 people live in the capital and largest city, San José with around 2 million people in the surrounding metropolitan area.

The 1960s, Biologists Take Note

Biologists began to take note of Monteverde in the 1960s. Despite the lack of infrastructure and shelter with which to conduct scientific research, these original biologists not only have been continuously documenting, but continue to live in, Monteverde.

In 1968, Dr. Joseph Tosi, who worked for the Tropical Science Center, a foundation for tropical conservation, accompanied Dr. Leslie Holdridge on a journey to Monteverde. The visit was part of a study of the northern region of Costa Rica, requested by the government's National Planning Office. There, they met Mr. Hubert Mendenhall, leader of the Quaker community at the time, who took them to see the primary forests that surrounded the community.

At the end of their visit, Holdridge and Tosi recommended to the Quaker community that the native forests be preserved as much as possible in order to protect their water sources and, given the strong winds that swept though the area, to use the forests as windbreakers to protect their fields and homes.

The 1970s, Conservation Efforts Mount

The years went by, and in 1972 a young graduate student, George Powell, visited the Tropical Science Center (TSC) in San José. He lived in Monteverde while doing doctoral research on the birds of the area, and he found that the fauna and habitats were ideal for research purposes.

Amazed by the extraordinary biological richness of the cloud forests, including the habitat of the endemic golden toad, and alarmed by the depredation caused by hunters and land squatters, Powell received a promise from the Guacimal Land Company that they would donate 328 hectares (810 acres) of land, if he could form or find a civic association that would sponsor him in taking over the property. George used his personal funds to buy out several of the squatters, hoping to establish a small biological preserve in the region.

Endemism Ecological state of being unique to a defined geographic location or habitat

Endemism is the ecological state of a species being unique to a defined geographic location, such as an island, nation, country or other defined zone, or habitat type; organisms that are indigenous to a place are not endemic to it if they are also found elsewhere. The extreme opposite of endemism is cosmopolitan distribution. An alternative term for a species that is endemic is precinctive, which applies to species that are restricted to a defined geographical area.

Golden toad extinct toad

The golden toad was a small true toad that was once abundant in a small, high-altitude region of about 4 square kilometres (1.5 sq mi) in an area north of the city of Monteverde, Costa Rica. It was endemic to elfin cloud forest. Also called the Monte Verde toad, Alajuela toad and orange toad, it is commonly considered the "poster child" for the amphibian decline crisis. This toad was first described in 1966 by herpetologist Jay Savage. The last sighting of a single male golden toad was on 15 May 1989, and it has since been classified as extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

At the time, there were few national parks in Costa Rica, and the TSC had a program to create private preserves for research and biological education, where each preserve would represent a different ecological area of the country. Immediately, the TSC became interested in Powell's offer and started the process that led to the acquisition of the 328 hectares (810 acres) in April 1973. The cost of the farm was a symbolic 1 colón (less than US $1).

The colón () refers to two Central American currencies:

Along with Powell, Costa Rican biologist Adelaida Chaverri and wildlife specialist Christopher Vaughn promoted the establishment of this private preserve, at the time a less-than-popular idea. In fact, Adelaida Chaverri became one of the sponsors, along with Dr. Joseph Tosi and other TSC members, of what is today the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. They provided continuity to the interest expressed by Dr. George Powell when he obtained the donation of the first piece of land for the Reserve.²

In 1975, 431 visitors came to the budding preserve, most of them scientists and bird watchers. Two years later, there still was no lodging available for visitors to the community, but Mrs. Wood, a local Quaker, started a small bed-and-breakfast in her own home, where occasional visitors would stay overnight.

The 1980s, First Days of Tourism

The number of foreign visitors increased from 2,700 in 1980 to more than 40,000 in 1991. The preserve increased in size during these years, but its best-known endemic species, the Golden Toad, as well as 40% of Monteverde's amphibian population became extinct, due to a deadly fungal pandemic Chytridiomycosis.

The 1990s through Today

Currently the Reserve is visited by more than 70,000 people each year, who are eager to get to know the biodiversity found within.




Epiphytes, which make up 29% of the flora with 878 species, are the richest life form among species of flora in Monteverde. The Monteverde region is also known as the site with the largest number of orchids in the world. The total number of known species surpasses 500, and of these, 34 species discovered in the Reserve were new to science at the time of their discovery.


Monteverde's golden toad. Bufo periglenes2.jpg
Monteverde's golden toad.

Herpetofauna of the area is worth noting, with 161 species of amphibians and reptiles. Monteverde is known worldwide as the habitat of the golden toad (Bufo periglenes), a species that disappeared in 1989.

91 (21%) of Monteverde's bird species are long distance migratory birds, which reproduce in North America and pass through Monteverde during their migration or spend the winter in the area. Three of these species, the swallow-tailed kite (Elanoides forficatus), the piratic flycatcher (Legatus leucophaius), and the yellow-green vireo (Vireo flavoviridis), reproduce in Monteverde and migrate to South America during their non-reproductive phase.

The resplendent quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) moves seasonally from high elevation nesting sites to lower elevations on both sides of the Continental Divide. The beginning of the migration of the three-wattled bellbird (Procnias tricarunculata) is similar to that of the quetzal, with reproduction occurring close to the Continental Divide, from March to June, and followed by a post-reproductive move downhill on the Pacific slope during the months of August and September.

The majority of the bird species in Monteverde are primarily insectivores, given that the plants in the region offer a wide variety of fruit. The epiphytes are important resources both for frugivores and insectivores in Monteverde. On a global scale, the cloud forests of Monteverde are home to ten species of birds that are considered to be endangered by the organization Birdlife International, due to their very restricted habitat worldwide.

The mammals of Monteverde include representatives from both North and South America as endemic species. The mammalian fauna of the region includes six species of marsupials, three muskrats, at least 58 bats, three primates, seven edentates, two rabbits, one ground hog, three species of squirrels, one species of spiny mouse, at least 15 species of long-tailed rats and mice (family Muridae); one species of porcupine, one species of agouti, one paca, two canids, five mustelids, four procyonids, six felines, two species of wild pigs, two species of deer, and one tapir.


Suspension bridge in the reserve Monteverde puente.jpg
Suspension bridge in the reserve

Currently, the Reserve has bus service that runs five times per day from Monteverde and Santa Elena; it also has a lodge that hosts up to 47 visitors, a small restaurant, a gift shop, and the Monteverde Nature Center information center, serpentarium, frog pond, bat jungle, and butterfly gardens. There are well maintained trails that run through the reserve, as well as suspension bridges and zip-lines. Horseback tours are sometimes arranged. [5]

Related Research Articles

Geography of Costa Rica

Costa Rica is located on the Central American Isthmus, surrounding the point 10° north of the equator and 84° west of the prime meridian. It borders both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, with a total of 1,290 km of coastline.

Cloud forest rainforest

A cloud forest, also called a water forest and primas forest, is a generally tropical or subtropical, evergreen, montane, moist forest characterized by a persistent, frequent or seasonal low-level cloud cover, usually at the canopy level, formally described in the International Cloud Atlas (2017) as silvagenitus. Cloud forests often exhibit an abundance of mosses covering the ground and vegetation, in which case they are also referred to as mossy forests. Mossy forests usually develop on the saddles of mountains, where moisture introduced by settling clouds is more effectively retained.

Decline in amphibian populations ongoing mass extinction of amphibian species worldwide

The decline in amphibian populations is an ongoing mass extinction of amphibian species worldwide. Since the 1980s, decreases in amphibian populations, including population crashes and mass localized extinctions, have been observed in locations all over the world. These declines are known as one of the most critical threats to global biodiversity, and several causes are believed to be involved, including disease, habitat destruction and modification, exploitation, pollution, pesticide use, introduced species, and ultraviolet-B radiation (UV-B). However, many of the causes of amphibian declines are still poorly understood, and the topic is currently a subject of much ongoing research. Calculations based on extinction rates suggest that the current extinction rate of amphibians could be 211 times greater than the background extinction rate and the estimate goes up to 25,000–45,000 times if endangered species are also included in the computation.

Resplendent quetzal species of bird

The resplendent quetzal is a bird in the trogon family. It is found from Chiapas, Mexico to western Panama. It is well known for its colorful plumage. There are two subspecies, P. m. mocinno and P. m. costaricensis.

La Selva Biological Station

La Selva Biological Station is a protected area encompassing 1,536 ha of low-land tropical rain forest in northeastern Costa Rica. It is owned and operated by the Organization for Tropical Studies, a consortium of universities and research institutions from the United States, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico. Recognized internationally as one of the most productive field stations in the world for tropical forest research and peer-reviewed publications, La Selva hosts approximately 300 scientists and 100 university courses every year. The primary goal of La Selva Biological Station is to preserve and protect an intact forest, as well as providing laboratory facilities for tropical research and education. The research potential of the area is not only vital to tropical ecology, but it is also an important location in the effort to study relations between local communities and protected areas. In addition, its high diversity and ease of access to the Puerto Viejo-Horquetas highway makes La Selva an important ecotourism destination and environmental education center for tourists and the local community.

Wildlife of Costa Rica

The Wildlife of Costa Rica comprises all naturally occurring animals, fungi and plants that reside in this Central American country. Costa Rica supports an enormous variety of wildlife, due in large part to its geographic position between the North and South American continents, its neotropical climate, and its wide variety of habitats. Costa Rica is home to more than 500,000 species, which represents nearly 4% of the total species estimated worldwide, making Costa Rica one of the 20 countries with the highest biodiversity in the world. Of these 500,000 species, a little more than 300,000 are insects.

Tapantí National Park

Tapantí National Park, sometimes called Orosí National Park, is a National Park in the Pacific La Amistad Conservation Area of Costa Rica located on the edge of the Talamanca Range, near Cartago. It protects forests to the north of Chirripó National Park, and also contains part of the Orosí River. The area known as Macizo de la Muerte was added to the park on January 14, 2000.

Juan Castro Blanco National Park

Juan Castro Blanco National Park is a National Park, part of the Arenal Huetar Norte Conservation Area, in the northern part of Costa Rica about 100 km north of San José, to the east of Ciudad Quesada in Alajuela Province. It contains the active Platanar Volcano, the dormant Porvenir Volcano, and the inactive El Viejo Volcano. It was created in 1992 and covers an area of both rain and cloud forest. There is an extensive trail system that winds through the park and offers visitors the chance to see an array of plants and animals. Aside from the trail system, however, there are not any public facilities at the park.

Curi Cancha Wildlife Refuge

Curi Cancha Wildlife Refuge is a wildlife refuge in the central part of Costa Rica, which forms part of the Arenal Tilaran Conservation Area and protects cloud forest in the Cordillera de Tilarán near Juntas. The refuge entrance is about a kilometer before the famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. The lower portion is drier, with few epiphytes, but the upper portion is cloud forest. While the forest is not quite so pristine as Monteverde, the most spectacular birds are much easier to see. The refuge is particularly good for the resplendent quetzal, the most sought-after bird of the cloud forest. The refuge is also a good place to find keel-billed toucan, Lesson's motmot, orange-bellied trogon, and three-toed sloth, as well as monkeys.

Holdridge's toad is a species of toad endemic to Costa Rica. In October 2008, it was declared extinct by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in its Red List since the species had not been seen since 1987, despite years of extensive searches. However, the species was rediscovered in 2010 by a Costa Rican herpetologist and is now classified as critically endangered. It is believed that the species is most threatened by the presence of the chytrid fungus in its habitat.

Talamancan montane forests

The Talamancan montane forests ecoregion, in the tropical moist broadleaf forest biome, are in montane Costa Rica and Panama in Central America.

Costa Rica brook frog species of amphibian

The Costa Rica brook frog or red-eyed stream frog is a species of frog in the family Hylidae found in Costa Rica and Panama. Its natural habitats are tropical moist lowland forests, subtropical or tropical moist montane forests, and rivers.

Silvery-throated jay species of bird

The silvery-throated jay is a species of bird in the family Corvidae. It is found in the Talamancan montane forests of Costa Rica and western Panama. The IUCN has rated its conservation status as being of "least concern".

Selvatura Park This is a nature complex adjacent to Reserva Bosque Nublado Santa Elena.

The Selvatura Adventure Park, or Monteverde Nature Center, Hummingbird and Butterfly Gardens is a nature center in Monteverde, northwestern Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica. It is located in the Cordillera de Tilarán mountain range, 1.2 miles south of the village of Santa Elena.

UGA Costa Rica is one of the three international residential centers owned and operated by the University of Georgia. The largest of these centers—the other two located in Oxford, England and Cortona, Italy—UGA Costa Rica is used as a site for research, study abroad, symposia, and ecotourism.

La Amistad International Park international park

The La Amistad International Park, or in Spanish Parque Internacional La Amistad, formerly the La Amistad National Park, is a Transboundary Protected Area in Latin America, management of which is shared between Costa Rica and Panama, following a recommendation by UNESCO after the park's inclusion in the World Heritage Site list.

Desarrollo Forestal Montreal S.A. is a nature reserve and cloud forest adjacent to Braulio Carrillo National Park in the central area of Costa Rica, about 30 miles (48 km) north of San José. The area is located between 1600–1800 meters (5,249–5,905 ft.) above sea level and extends throughout the mountain range.

Monteverde Theme Park

The Monteverde Theme Park, previously known as Frog Pond Ranarium, located in Santa Elena, north of Monteverde, Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica, is a frog pond turned animal theme park that houses a butterfly farm with approximately 30 live butterflies species and other insects and over 25 species of frogs and other amphibians from around the country in a climate controlled habitat.


  1. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-11-30. Retrieved 2014-11-02.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  3. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-09-14. Retrieved 2012-04-13.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  4. 1 2 Monteverde Friends School (Escuela de los Amigos) Archived 2008-05-09 at the Wayback Machine
  5. Stater, Adam. "Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve Facilities".