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Costa Rica and Panama

James L. Luteyn

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      The páramos of Costa Rica and Panama are located in the Cordillera de Talamanca, the backbone of eastern Costa Rica and adjacent western Panama.  About 60 km2 of páramo occur in the massive Cerro Chirripó region (Cleef & Chaverri, 1992), with a few scattered others towards the border with Panama.  There the páramo is found between 3300 and 3819 m elevation and is dominated by the dwarf bamboo Chusquea subtessellata, which may form a ground cover of up to 60% (Kappelle, 1990). The páramo-like vegetation along the Panamerican Highway, in the region known as Cerro de La Muerte, at about 3100 m, is man made (fire-induced) with numerous characteristic páramo plants found in exposed boggy sites, locally called "paramillo", "ciénagas", or "tuberas." The peaks of Volcán Irazú (3432 m) and Volcán Turrialba (3339 m) are páramo-like in appearance, but are not true páramos.  Hunter (1959) estimated that about 1000 hectares (ca. 10 km2) or 0.02% of the total land area of Costa Rica was páramo.
      In Panama, the very summit of Volcán Barú (also known as Cerro Chiriquí), at 3475 m, has páramo-like vegetation, although it is now impossible to say what the original vegetation was like since the top has been bulldozed for communication towers.  True undisturbed páramo does seem to occur in Panama near the border with Costa Rica in areas such as Cerro Echandi (3160 m) and Cerro Fábrega (3335 m) (fide G. Davidse collection labels). Costa Rican and Panamanian national parks that include páramo are:  Chirripó (in Costa Rica) and Vulcán Barú (in Panama), both units of the larger Parque Internacional de la Amistad shared by Costa Rica and Panama.
      For further information about Costa Rican and Panamanian páramo vegetation see Chaverri (Unpublished), Chaverri et al. (1997), Cleef & Chaverri (1992), Gómez P. (1986, 1994), Hooghiemstra et al. (1992), Horn (1990b), Janzen (1983), Kappelle (1991), Vargas Ulate & Sánchez G. (Unpublished), Weber (1958, 1959), and Weston (1981a,b).

Bibliographic Sources for Locations of Páramos


American Geographical Society of New York. 1937. Lago de Nicaragua, Central America. 1:1,000,000. Map NC-16. Provisional edition. A. Hoen and Company, Baltimore.

National Geographical Society. 1939. Mexico, Central America and the West Indies. 1:5,702,000. Cartographic Division, Washington, D.C.

__.  1986. Central America. 1:2,534,000. Cartographic Division, Washington, D.C. Rand McNally & Co. 1969. Costa Rica. Mapa vial.  Lithographed in U.S.A.

Tosi, J. A., Jr. 1969. República de Costa Rica, mapa ecológico. Centro Científico Tropical. 1:750,000. Litografiado por Instituto Geográfico Nacional. San José, Costa Rica.

Weber, H. 1959. Los páramos de Costa Rica y su concatenación fitogeográfica con los Andes suramericanos. Instituto Geográfico de Costa Rica, San José.

__.  1963. Über die Vegetation der hochandinen Páramos. Pp. 2-16. Jahrbuch 1963 des Vereins zum Schutze der Alpenpflanzen und Tiere e.V. (Bd. 28), München.


American Geographical Society of New York. 1928. Panama, Central America. 1:1,000,000. Map NC-17. Provisional edition. A. Hoen and Company, Baltimore.

Instituto Costaricense de Turismo. 1977. Panamá. Mapa vial. Litografía Trejos, Costa Rica.

Instituto Geográfico Nacional "Tommy Guardia". Panamá. Plano de la ciudad de Panamá y mapas de carreteras.

National Geographical Society. 1939.  Mexico, Central America and the West Indies. 1:5,702,000. Cartograpic Division, Washington, D.C.

Rand McNally & Co. 1967. Panamá. Mapa vial. Lithographed in U.S.A.

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