Resource Details

Sixty-Seven Years of Land-Use Change in Southern Costa Rica

Literature: Journal Articles Available at NO COST

Zahawi, R. A., G. Duran, and U. Kormann. 2015. Sixty-Seven Years of Land-Use Change in Southern Costa Rica. Plos One 10: e0143554. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0143554

Contact Info

Corresponding author:


  • Org Trop Studies, Las Cruces Biol Stn, San Vito De Coto Brus, Costa Rica
  • Univ Nacl Costa Rica, Ctr Recursos Hidr Ctr Amer & Caribe, Sede Chorotega, Liberia, Costa Rica
  • Univ Gottingen, Dept Agroecol, D-37077 Gottingen, Germany


Plos One

Full Access to this document is available for no cost at the link above.


  • This article assesses land-use change over a 67 year period near the Las Cruces Biological Station in southern Costa Rica. This land was premontane wet forest prior to 1947, and over the course of the next few decades, the land was increasingly deforested and fragmented. Forest cover decreased by 71.6% from 1947-2014.
  • Colonization in this region occurred post WW-II with an influx of Italian immigrants, and forest clearing and conversion to shade coffee was encouraged. Second waves of deforestation were linked to cattle pastures, but the high rainfall and steep slopes have eroded the topsoil and left these pastures degraded.
  • To assess land-use change, historical aerial photographs of the region were used to create forest mapping, where forest cover was distinguished from coffee agroforestry and early regeneration. From this mapping, annual deforestation rates and degree of forest fragment connectivity were calculated.
  • As patches became smaller, many lacked a core area (having a 100m buffer from the edge), and edge habitat increased. However, in some areas the forest began to regenerate and secondary forests covered 30.5% of the study area in 2014 compared to 5.5% in 1980.
  • Despite the creation of smaller forest patches, a surprising high amount of biodiversity was still present, largely due to the presence of the large Las Cruces Biological Station reserve and a high degree of habitat and structural connectivity.

Geographical Region

  • Southern Central America
  • Country

  • Costa Rica
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