In view of the conditions of many natural areas in our world today it is obvious that an active approach to in situ conservation is needed. Most natural areas have been greatly influenced directly or indirectly by humans for tens, hundreds, or even thousands of years. Much of this historical human influence has resulted in damaging many of our more sensitive habitats.
The C.R.A.R.C. owns and operates two biological reserves, the Guayacán Rainforest Reserve, and the Río Vereh Cloud Forest Reserve. Within both of the reserves the C.R.A.R.C. is actively conducting in situ conservation projects to increase the diversity and abundance of the flora and fauna native to both regions.
In situ Amphibian Conservation
At the Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center a large focus of our in situ work revolves around designing and putting into practice several pioneering methods of amphibian conservation. Our amphibian in situ conservation projects are focused on species that exists within our reserves, or were historically present in the regions. The in situ amphibian projects range from creating artificial breeding sites in favorable habitats specific to the target taxa, rehabilitating natural breeding sites that were damaged by prior human activity, or simply enhancing breeding sites in “healthy” habitats to increase breeding potential.
The C.R.A.R.C. has been conducting successful in situ population management for the Ghost Leaf Frog (Agalychnis lemur) in the Guayacán Rainforest Reserve since 2003. This Critically Endangered species is currently only known to exist at a handful of sites in Costa Rica and Panama, and there are only two known metapopulations of A. lemur remaining in Costa Rica, one of which is within the C.R.A.R.C.’s Guayacán Rainforest Reserve. We need to do all that we can to preserve the known remaining Costa Rican populations of this beautiful and extremely rare species, and rest assured at the C.R.A.R.C. we will continue to work hard so that the metapopulations within the Guayacán Rainforest Reserve continue to thrive and expand!!!
General in situ Conservation Through Habitat Creation and Rehabilitation
At the C.R.A.R.C. we are actively involved in trying to restore or improve certain parts of our reserves, and in doing so increase the vigor of the flora and fauna found within. Our in situ conservation activities include planting native plant and tree species to increase species and genetic diversity, which is vital for long term survival; recovering or increasing the abundance of certain tree and herbaceous plant species that are an important natural food source for animals in the area; rehabilitating key terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems that have been damaged by human activity prior to being a biological reserve; creating terrestrial and aquatic habitats that have become rare or were naturally rare due to specifics; eliminating non-native invasive species; reforesting severely damaged areas such as pasture or other historically mono-specific agricultural zones.
These photos show an experiment involving the creation of artificial reproductive habitat for the Sylvia’s Splendid Leaf Frog (Cruziohyla sylviae) in the Guayacán Rainforest Reserve. This species normally utilizes water-filled cavities in fallen or standing trees for reproduction. Their highly specialized reproductive mode targets a very limited reproductive resource in natural conditions. Our goal was to create reproductive habitat in hopes to increase the vigor of native populations of C. sylviae in the reserve. This was a first of its kind pioneering experiment when it was started in January 2003, and since then we have added numerous artificial breeding tubs to strategic points within the reserve. We are proud to call our efforts a success, with egg masses and dozens of tadpoles regularly being seen on any visit to the sites. Numerous generations of C. sylviae have now been produced at these sites within the Guayacán Rainforest Reserve. Not only has C. sylviae been using these sites for breeding since 2003, but the Ghost Leaf Frog (Agalychnis lemur), also adapted well to using these sites and has resulted in greatly increasing the population of this Critically Endangered species within the reserve and adjoining forest.
We have created numerous ponds within the Guayacán Rainforest Reserve, and this is just one example. These photos show the before (upper left) and after (upper right and below) of the cleaning and rehabilitation of a natural wetland. This wetland became filled in with sedge-peat by grass growth when this site was cleared years before for cattle grazing. Before the forest was cut this wetland was most likely an open-water forest pond community. We attempted to restore this wetland’s original state by removing nearly a half-meter of sedge-peat from the aquatic area. This peat removal was done with shovels and wheel barrels. We planted native aquatic and terrestrial plants that are typically found in or near forested ponds in the region. We also carefully selected plants that are utilized by amphibians and other animals for habitat or reproductive sites.
We made one large irregular shaped pond in this swampy area. This habitat was first modified in November 2003, and since that time 13 species of frogs have been observed at the site (Agalychnis callidryas, A. lemur, A. saltator, A. spurrelli, Dendropsophus ebraccatus, D. phlebodes, Leptodactylus melanonotus, L. savagei, Lithobates vaillanti, Smilisca manisorum, S. phaeota, Scinax elaeochroa, and Tlalocohyla loquax). These species were not observed at the site prior to the habitat modification. Amphibians are not the only animals that are regularly using this pond habitat; various other species of both invertebrates and vertebrates are now commonly seen here as well.
The above photo shows one of the successes of the cabin pond’s rehabilitation; hundreds of Spurrell’s Leaf Frog (Agalychnis spurrelli) eggs laid on the vegetation. During such breeding events it is possible to observe hundreds of A. spurrelli adults engaging in reproductive activity, and in the following days thousands of eggs can be observed attached to many of the available leaf surfaces surrounding the pond.
The pioneering research and conservation efforts of the C.R.A.R.C. are made possible thanks to the funds that are generated by visitors and private donations. Please consider helping support the work of the C.R.A.R.C. by visiting the Guayacán Rainforest Reserve on your next trip to Costa Rica or by making a donation.