• La Selva Biological Station
• Las Cruces Biological Station
• Palo Verde Biological Station
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Las Cruces is a 266 hectare reserve of transition forest (mid-elevation rain to cloud forest) and includes the 12-hectare Wilson Botanical Garden where more than 5,100 tropical plant species from around the world (many endangered) are protected. Las Cruces hosts more than 6,000 visitors per year including students, researchers and ecotourists.
Location and Ecological Setting
Las Cruces is located near the Panamanian border on Costa Rica's southern Pacific coastal range (8° 47' N, 82° 57' W). The station is 287 kilometers (4.5 hours by car) from San Jose, Costa Rica. A mid-elevation site, the station's borders extend through an elevational range of 1,100 to 1,385 meters and encompass 254 hectares of premontane rain forest (second growth, primary and pasture). There are extensive patches of forest fragments running along the ridges and bordering streams, including a patchwork of forest remnants extending from Las Cruces along the Paraguas Ridge to the Guaymi Indian Reservation 15 kilometers away.
The Robert and Catherine Wilson Botanical Garden (JBW) is part of the La Amistad Biosphere Reserve that encompasses 472,000 hectares of park and buffer zones centered in the southern Talamanca mountain range. The facilities for the visitors are located within the Wilson Garden. The grounds surrounding the buildings have cultivated collections and fallow and experimental plots. About 6 kilometers of trails wind around the collections of plants in the garden.
The forest reserve protects the last remnant of mid elevation forest nearest to the Coto Brus Valley on the coastal mountain range. The vegetation includes many timber trees species, native palms, vines and lianas, epifitic and parasitic plants, endemic cycads, and many herbacious and shrubby species. The Wilson Botanical Garden features beautifully diverse plantings of tropical and subtropical ornamentals, representatives of unusual plant families and rare and endangered plants from Costa Rica and elsewhere. There are more than 1,000 genera in 212 plant families. Particularly well represented are ferns, aroids, bromeliads, gingers, heliconias, marantas, and palms (the garden houses the second largest collection of palm species in the world).
In addition, the garden, forest reserve and the surrounding areas are home to a wide diversity of fauna, including more than 800 butterfly, 320 bird and 37 bat species. Other animals found include medium sized terrestrial mammals, snakes, frogs and lizards, and moths. There have been a series of sightings of large mammals (ocelot, jaguarundi and puma) in the area.
Facilities and Resources
- dormitory rooms, family houses and cabins accommodating 72 people
- central dining hall
- telephone and fax
- internet access
- Station Naturalists, Scientific Director and researchers serve as natural history experts
- 24-hour line power with generator backup (110/220v, 60 cycle)
- researcher work areas
- greenhouses and workshops
- meteorological station
- databases (Costa Rica biodiversity, living collections, publications, meteorological data)
Approximately 42 research projects are conducted at Las Cruces each year. Projects include studies in conservation biology, botany, ethnobiology, flora and fauna surveys and agroecology.
Average rainfall is near 4 meters per year. The rainy season extends from mid April to mid November. Usually it rains in the afternoons during the rainy season and the evenings are misty. Temperature averages 21 C (70) during the day and 15 C (60) at night.
A trained Las Cruces staff member is available at all times to help in emergency situations. In case of emergency evacuation station vehicles, local ambulances and taxis are available. There is a hospital within 5 minutes and a Red Cross within 10 minutes of the station. General procedures are posted for emergencies and there are several first aid kits and emergency provisions throughout the station. Although there are venomous snakes, the likelihood of being bit by a snake is low. Basic precautions recommended include hiking or rubber boots, protecting skin from sun and mosquitoes (via clothes or repellent and sun block), carrying plenty of water, and staying on trails. It is advised that the work schedules be reviewed with staff personnel to assess distances, time and accessibility to the different areas of the reserve.