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While I always marvel at Gods power and marvelous creation I have never considered myself to be much of a naturalist or conservationist and I don't know if its cause I am getting older or if it's that I am finally waking up to the amazing nature we are surrounded with here in the foothills of a world International Parque La Amistad. I know that in Feb of 2010 when Pablo Yoder was here for evangelistic meetings he helped spark a flame of interest that continues to burn within me. This park is virtually unexplored as of yet.

The parks cross-frontier position gives it unique potential to improve bioregional planning. The park's buffer zone includes coffee and beef producers, indigenous subsistence farmers and communities like Santiago. A consequence of the difficulty of the terrain, the park is relatively unexplored and the only substantial scientific explorations deep into the park have been led by the Natural History Museum London, INBio and the University of Panama in the last 6 years (2003–2008). We hope that this will soon change as we wish to open doors of opportunity and create world awareness.
In 2006 the UK's Darwin Initiative funded a three year collaborative project led by the Natural History Museum, London, INBio (Costa Rica) and ANAM (Panama). The aim of which was to generate baseline biodiversity information for the park and a map of the biodiversity. This involved a series of seven multi-disciplinary and international expeditions to remote parts of La Amistad during which over 7,500 plants, 17,000 beetle and 380 herpetological collections were made and deposited in the national collections of Costa Rica and Panama. These expeditions also lead to the discovery of 12 plant species, one dung beetle species, fifteen amphibian and three reptile species new to science.
With such a diverse range of environments, visitors can expect a very wide variety of wildlife, trees and plant life. It is estimated that two thirds of all the wildlife that resides in Costa Rica can be found here, including jaguars, giant anteaters, tapirs, puma, coatis, monkeys, peccaries, margay and ocelot. An unprecedented 500 species of birds are found throughout the park including the illusive resplendent quetzal and harpy eagle. Of the species listed as &endangered& in Costa Rica, nine of the eleven birds, 13 of the 16 mammals and all the amphibians and reptiles are found in La Amistad Park. Approximately 1,000 fern species, 500 tree species and 130 different types of orchids can also be found within the park borders. Compared to other parks and reserves around the world of similar size, the diversity found here is unequalled.


If you wish to explore this rugged frontier it is advisable to hire a guide, as many of the trails are unmarked. Camping is allowed in several designated locations within the park; most web sites will inform you that there is no lodging, but this has all just changed! It might be a little limited but its lodging! And you have a couple options! and both the communities of Santiago and San Jeronimo now have hiking trails to the park. And clear at the top of the continental divide there is a cabin with all the basic amenities to spend a pleasant time camping. Cost of cabin rental $7 per night (has room for a group of up to 12) Cost of hiring a guide per day $50 (It is highly recommended that there be a guide per every 5 persons)
From San Jose, head south via Cartago on the Pan-American, crossing over Cerro de la Muerte until the 3¬Ω hour drive takes you to San Isidro de El General. From there, you can access one of the park entrances through Santiago. Something that will make Santiago unique is that directly above this mountain community is where this International Park La Amistad and the National Park Chirripo border each other.
One of the reasons I am convinced this beautiful Park will soon be discovered by the world is because endangered species of amphibians and even amphibians that have been given up as extinct are being discovered within the foothills and within this Park.
Amphibian declines around the world have forced many species to the brink of extinction, are much more complex than realized and have multiple causes that are still not fully understood, researchers conclude in a new report.

A threatened species that a UCR biologist found within the last year in Monte Verde southern Costa Rica is the “glass frog.” While most of the 60 Glass Frog species have a lime green color to them, there are a few that actually have translucent skin. Yep, this means you can actually see their organs without paying for expensive x-rays! Typically, you are able to see their liver, heart and GI Tract without too much difficulty. I confess that once you begin to study these friends you become strangely attached to the idea of defending them at all cost!

The search for a single causative factor is often missing the larger picture, they said, and approaches to address the crisis may fail if they don't consider the totality of causes — or could even make things worse.

No one issue can explain all of the population declines that are occurring at an unprecedented rate, and much faster in amphibians than most other animals, the scientists conclude in a study just published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

The amphibian declines are linked to natural forces such as competition, predation, reproduction and disease, as well as human-induced stresses such as habitat destruction, environmental contamination, invasive species and climate change, researchers said.

“An enormous rate of change has occurred in the last 100 years, and amphibians are not evolving fast enough to keep up with it,” said Andrew Blaustein, a professor of zoology at Oregon State University and an international leader in the study of amphibian declines. “We're now realizing that it's not just one thing, it's a whole range of things,” Blaustein said.

“With a permeable skin and exposure to both aquatic and terrestrial problems, amphibians face a double whammy,” he said. “Because of this, mammals, fish and birds have not experienced population impacts as severely as amphibians – at least, not yet.”

The totality of these changes leads these researchers to believe that the Earth is now in a major extinction episode similar to five other mass extinction events in the planet's history. And amphibians are leading the field – one estimate indicates they are disappearing at more than 200 times that of the average extinction rate.

Efforts to understand these events, especially in the study of amphibians, have often focused on one cause or another, such as fungal diseases, invasive species, and an increase in ultraviolet radiation due to ozone depletion, pollution, global warming, and others. All of these and more play a role in the amphibian declines, but the scope of the crisis can only be understood from the perspective of many causes, often overlapping each other. Efforts that address only one cause, risk failure or even compounding the problems, the researchers said.

“Given that many stressors are acting simultaneously on amphibians, we suggest that single-factor explanations for amphibian population declines are likely the exception rather than the rule,” the researchers wrote in their report. “Studies focused on single causes may miss complex interrelationships involving multiple factors and indirect effects.”

One example is the fungus B. dendrobatidis, which has been implicated in the collapse of many frog populations around the world. However, in some populations the fungus causes no problems for years until a lethal threshold is reached, studies have shown.
And while this fungus disrupts electrolyte balance, other pathogens can have different effects such as a parasitic trematode that can cause severe limb malformations, and a nematode that can cause kidney damage. The combination and severity of these pathogens together in a single host, rather than any one individually, are all playing a role in dwindling frog populations.

Past studies at Oregon State have found a synergistic impact from ultraviolet radiation, which by itself can harm amphibians, and a pathogenic water mold that infects amphibian embryos. And they linked the whole process to water depths at egg-laying sites, which in turn are affected by winter precipitation in the Oregon Cascade Range that is related to climate change.

Their rapid disappearance now suggests that the variety and rate of change exceeds anything they have faced before, the researchers said.

“Modern selection pressures, especially those associated with human activity may be too severe and may have arisen too rapidly for amphibians to evolve adaptations to overcome them,” the researchers concluded.

Nat Yoder

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