Plants and Trees in the Rainforest of the Austrians

The Rainforest of the Austrians is a lowland tropical wet forest with an average yearly rainfall of 6000 mm.  The Golfo Dulce forests are the only forests of this type that are still extant on the Pacific side of Central America. In the Osa Conservation Area that includes Piedras Blancas National Park, 2709 species, 935 genera, and 187 families of vascular plants have been recorded so far. The area harbors 700 tree species - the greatest tree species diversity in all of Central America.  120 species of plants are endemic to the region.   

The logging of tropical hardwood trees
The biodiversity of trees in the Osa is ten times larger than in all Europe! Numerous species of potentially valuable tropical hardwood trees grow here, making the forest especially vulnerable to logging. Hardwoods are resistent to high humidity, insects and fungi and are used for construction, as firewood, or for the souvenir industry. Hardwoods are not exported as timber; logs are used for building because they are cheaper than cement blocks. 

A tropical rainforest is divided into various levels, from the forest floor to the canopy. Almost 90% of light is absorbed by the canopy and turned into biomass, whereas only 3% of sunlight reaches the forest floor. This leads to large differences in temperatures and humidity and hence to classification of plants according to where they grow.  Biologists describe the most important vegetation units as forests on plains, forests on well-drained hill-tops,ridges, or slopes, forest in deep valleys, coastal forest, riverine forest, cloud forest, mountain forest, gallery woodlands, swamp forest, mangroves, and secondary forests. Each of these has a distinctive microclimate. 


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