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American Society of Landscape Architects


September 2005 Issue

Think Globally, Sustain Locally
A thematic park in Costa Rica focuses on preserving biodiversity.

By Jimena Martignoni

A thematic park in Costa Rica focuses on preserving biodiversity

Costa Rica possesses one of the most important surviving wildernesses in the world. Primarily due to the many different microclimates spread out among the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, the mountains, and the plains, this 19,929-square-mile country, with more than a half-million species, is one of 20 with the greatest biodiversity in the world. The rest of the planet depends on these and other rich ecosystems in Latin America to prevent the disruption of weather patterns, to recharge supplies of clean air and water, and to support human well-being.

Even if the benefits of this biological richness are shared globally, conservation experts believe that the first actions to conserve these wild areas need to be taken locally. Quoting the United Nations' Malloch Brown (Time, August 2000): "When you approach sustainable development from an environmental view, the problems are global. But from a development view, the front line is local, local, local."

With more than 25 percent of its land being protected by the government at some level, Costa Rica has 11 conservation areas, which were created to enable decentralized management of local biodiversity and which are overseen by the National System of Conservation Areas (Sistema Nacional de Areas de Conservacion or SINAC).

Landscape, as both a natural and a cultural resource, plays a key role in local sustainable development, especially when it includes conserving biodiversity. As part of some of SINAC's programs aimed at the promotion of conservation, a group of biologists, educators, and entrepreneurs at the National Biodiversity Institute (Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad or INBio) in San Jose, Costa Rica's capital, decided to create a 12-acre theme park featuring re-creations of the country's three most representative ecosystems. INBio is a nonprofit scientific organization with educational and social objectives. Supported by diverse international foundations, it focuses on research and education about local biodiversity and sustainable methods for the use and preservation of native fauna and flora.

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