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INTRODUCTION

The formation of the isthmus between the Continents of South and North America over 3 million years ago occurred due to the shifting of tectonic plates and volcanism. The establishment of this isthmus facilitated the migration of the majority of organisms from both Continents that accounts for the large diversity of life extant throughout much of Central America, especially here in Costa Rica. For such a relatively small region it is truly amazing that Costa Rica harbors nearly 5% of the world’s biodiversity. Biological diversity embraces all plants, animals, fungi, microorganisms and the ecosystems and ecological processes which they are an integral part of. Accounting for this vast richness is the wide variety of habitat systems such as tropical wet forests, cloud forests, dry forests, moist forests, premontane and lower montane rain forests, and subalpine (paramo) among others. Each of these environments is defined according to, for example, how much rain they receive, amount of sunshine, temperature due to elevation, soil conditions, topography and types of plants. With regards to estimates on the number of species found in Costa Rica, insects dominate with over 35,000 currently identified, of which 1250 are butterflies and 8000 are moths; more than 12,000 species of vascular plants among which are about 800 species of ferns, 1400 species of orchids, 30 species of heliconias, and 2000 species of bromeliads; amphibians number 175 species, about 85% which are frogs; 225 are reptiles, of which 70 species are lizards, 120 snakes (about 20 poisoness), 5 species of marine turtles that nest here in Costa Rica, and 2 crocodilians, the spectacled caiman and american crocodile; mammals account for around 250 species, one-half of which are bats, and birds represent about 900 species with over 600 that are residents and more than 200 migratorial. No doubt the aforementioned estimates in some instances will increase over time as new species are discovered, especially in the more remote regions of Costa Rica. All told, there are 15 wetland/mangroove areas, 26 national parks, 11 forest reserves, 58 wildlife refuges, 7 wildlife sanctuaries and 8 biological reserves in addition to numerous privately-owned protected areas.