The Classic Jungle
If you venture to the Central American countries of Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama, you have a chance to see a classic jungle environment. Blanketing the lowland regions of these countries, the Isthmian-Atlantic Moist Forests feature huge buttressed trees, abundant palms, and lush understory vegetation. And they're home to an amazing assortment of animals--from rare butterflies to brilliantly colored birds to great jungle cats.
The climate here is extremely wet, with rainfall ranging from 100 inches (250 centimeters) per year in central Panama to more than 200 inches (500 centimeters) in Nicaragua. Temperatures hover around 75° F (24° C) throughout much of the year. Moisture-rich air from the Caribbean Sea delivers high humidity.
This ecoregion contains a variety of habitats, from coastal mangrove forests to swamp forests to lowland evergreen forests. Almendro and monkey-pot trees sprout in parts of the region, and a wealth of animals live here, too. Four species of marine turtles nest on the region's coastal beaches. Scarlet and great green macaws nest in the lowland forests. Three-wattled bellbirds and bare-necked umbrellabirds migrate seasonally to this region. These lowland forests are the only home of the snowy cotinga, sulfur-rumped tanager, stripe-cheeked woodpecker, and the streak-crowned antvireo. Noisy ant birds follow army ant swarms to feed on escaping insects. Jaguars and ocelots pad through the region, collared and white-lipped peccaries move in small herds through the undergrowth, and Baird's tapirs browse on the abundant vegetation. Honduran white bats rest under Heliconia leaves during the day, looking like clusters of ping-pong balls.
Cause for Concern
Subsistence and commercial agriculture have supplanted native forest throughout much of this region. Flat areas have been converted to banana plantations, while steeper areas have been logged and converted to cattle pasture. New roads have encouraged more human settlement of the region, and many of the forests are under tremendous logging pressure. Parrots are declining as nestlings are taken for the pet trade.
For more information on this ecoregion, go to the World Wildlife Fund Scientific Report.All text by World Wildlife Fund © 2001