La Selva Biological Station
La Selva, situated at the confluence of two major rivers in the Caribbean lowlands of northern Costa Rica (10° 26' N, 83° 59' W), comprises 1,600 hectares (3,900 acres) of tropical wet forests and disturbed lands. It averages 4 meters (over 13 feet) of rainfall that is spread rather evenly throughout the year. The Station is bordered on the south by Braulio Carrillo National Park, which contains more than 46,000 hectares of forest land and is the core conservation unit of the 91,000-hectare Cordillera Volcánica Central Biosphere Reserve.
Braulio Carrillo National Park extends down to La Selva through a forest corridor that descends in elevation from 2,906 meters at Volcán Barva to 35 meters above sea level at La Selva. This reserve, consisting of both La Selva's protected environs and the Park, has four major tropical life zones and includes more than 5,000 species of vascular plants, of which more than 700 species are trees.
The fauna is similarly diverse. Large predators include jaguars, pumas, and bushmasters. Thousands of arthropod species are being currently recorded at La Selva, and more than 400 species of resident and migratory birds have been sighted in the reserve, representing almost half of Costa Rica's bird species.
Building on a strong base of systematic biology and evolutionary biology, research at La Selva has diversified to include ecosystem-level projects, physiological ecology, soil science, and forestry trials of native tree species. These studies have resulted in the publication of more than 1,600 scientific articles, theses, and books and perhaps another 1,000 write-ups of course projects.
La Selva's juxtaposition of protected ecosystems and state-of-the-art laboratory facilities is unique in the world's wet tropics. An extensive trail system of more than 50 kilometers provides access to a wide range of terrestrial and aquatic habitats. The entire property has been topographically surveyed to a high degree of accuracy and 3,000 permanent posts mark the 50 x 100 meter grids.
Two well-equipped laboratories, including a large analytical lab, offer air-conditioned work space, and house common-use equipment. Spatially referenced data are managed on the Geographic Information System (GIS) and the same work stations service the e-mail and Internet connections.
La Selva can sleep 80 people in comfortable six-person dormitory rooms and cabins. A central dining hall accommodates more than 100 people for meals day in and day out. A large workshop serves both Station maintenance and researcher needs. These facilities, combined with the forest reserve and Braulio Carrillo National Park, make La Selva one of the world's premier sites at which to conduct ecosystem research.
A summary of research at La Selva can be found in McDade, L. A., K. S. Bawa, H. A. Hespenheide, and G. S. Hartshorn, eds. 1994. La Selva: ecology and natural history of a neotropical rain forest. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. See images of La Selva Biological Station