The Children’s Eternal Rainforest: A Biologically Unparalleled Resource
Situated in the Monteverde region of Costa Rica, the Children’s Eternal Rainforest (CER) is a biologically unique forest unlike any other place on our planet. Because the CER straddles the continental divide, spans 450 to 1800 meters in elevation above sea level, and is situated between two massive bodies of water (the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the Caribbean Sea to the east), the forest’s 55,000 acres consist of dozens of unique life zones. For example, on the Pacific side of the CER it is possible to move through seven life zones in a matter of hours. In most areas of the world, a traveler would have to walk hundreds, or even thousands, of miles to cross through seven life zones.
Ranging from seasonally hot and dry on the Pacific side, to cool, wet and cloudy on the Caribbean slopes, each life zone supports a different and unique ecology of plants, animals and insects. The CER’s concentration of an enormous number of life zones in one place is what makes the CER an ecosystem of unparalleled biodiversity worldwide. Most plants and animals are suited to live in only a limited number of life zones. By having a huge diversity of unique life zones, the CER supports seven different but interrelated webs of species diversity.
As a result of this array of habitats, the CER, which makes up only a tiny fraction of the world’s landmass (the entire country of Costa Rica constitutes about .3% of the planet’s land, and the CER is only a fraction of that), is home to an astonishingly disproportionate share of Earth’s plants and wildlife. Of our planet’s 8800 species of birds, 450 call the CER home—fully 5% of all known bird species. In fact, serving as the center of the seasonal migratory pathway for many North and South American birds, the CER supports not only birds native to Costa Rica, but many birds typically thought of as residing primarily on distant parts of the continents surrounding Central America.
- 100 (or 2.5%) of Earth’s 4,000 mammal species are supported by the CER. These include the endangered Baird’s Tapir, the largest mammal in Costa Rica, weighing about 550 lbs.
- 60 (or 6.5%) of Earth’s bat species are supported by the CER.
- 60 (or 1%) of Earth’s frog species are supported by the CER. Of these, three species have gone extinct everywhere on the planet except for the CER, and there are multiple species of frogs currently unknown to science that have been found in the CER.
- 700 (or 3.5%) of Earth’s butterfly species are supported by the CER.
This spectacular biodiversity is supported by the forest and the watershed that it protects. On the Pacific slope, for example, the CER protect three major rivers, including the Lagarto, Guacimal, and Aranjuez rivers, which provide fresh water to the forest and dozens of downstream communities.
As a result of the confluence of all of these factors, the Children’s Eternal Rainforest is a piece of unmatched biodiversity worldwide. Protecting it means preserving thousands of species of plants and animals, local communities and the air and water upon which we all depend.