Rainforests of the Sea
By: Tanya Buxton
Photos: Diego Mejás & Nicolas Ghersinich
The word is out and spreading fast. Costa Rica has amazing ocean life! Between visits to world famous resorts, national parks and pristine coastlines, more and more visitors are taking the plunge to discover the amazing diversity of life that exists just beyond what our eyes can see. Eyes without a mask and snorkel, that is.
CORAL REEFS are vast, rocky areas located in shallow, tropical waters. They are like the tropical rainforests of the ocean! The greatest variety of plant and animal life in the ocean live around them.
After years of snorkeling and diving in the northwestern Pacific coast of Costa Rica, I still get excited before each trip underwater. Always going through my head is the same thought: ‘What will I see today?’ Do I get bored diving in the same places over and over again? The simple answer is, no. More often than not, I end up seeing something that I have never noticed before, something that I can not believe I am seeing or something I am so excited to show someone else. There is one thing that the reefs off the coast of Guanacaste are not lacking, and that is life.
Just below the surface along the coast and around the numerous little islands just a short distance from the shore, there exist amazing reef ecosystems centered on and around volcanic rock formations. These highly diverse ecosystems are home to an extraordinary amount of biodiversity. Here, you can find many species of fish often in very large schools. There are at least five species of ray including the huge, majestic manta ray, moray eels of every size and color, sharks, crabs, starfish, sea horses, octopus, turtles, colorful corals and sponges, and plants. The list goes on and on.
Many people who come to snorkel or dive here are easily captivated by these unique communities and they often return year after year to see more. One of the reasons this area has so much life is due to the plankton-rich waters that circulate through the region. Plankton are very small, often microscopic, plants, animals and bacteria that float with the currents and which create the basis of the food chain. Having a lot of these little guys at the bottom of the food chain creates an opportunity for many other species to thrive.
All the different plants, animals and corals that exist in these communities depend on each other to keep the entire ecosystem in balance. Removal of one species can have long lasting effects on the ecosystem as a whole. Coastal reefs across the world are facing many new stresses. Global warming is affecting ocean currents, temperatures and sea levels. Poorly managed coastal development is increasing the amount of runoff, including untreated sewage, which enters the ocean and increases the growth of harmful algae. Trash, pesticides and herbicides enter the ocean daily and are often carried there by rivers from hundreds of miles inland.
Everyone can do their part to help conserve the oceans. Here are a few tips:
Patronize environmentally-friendly destinations and hotels. Look for their sustainability efforts such as recycling, water treatment, and involvement with local conservation efforts.
Always properly dispose of trash and when possible recycle or reuse items.
Help fight global warming by using public transportation, walking or biking, planting trees, and turning off your lights and other electrical devices when not in use.
Support organizations for ocean conservation.
Take a snorkel trip or go diving and then tell your friends and family about how amazing it was! Help more people become aware of the beautiful oceans.
DID YOU KNOW?
Oceans cover over 70% of Earths surface, yet only about 10% have been studied and we know more about outer space than we do about the oceans.
DID YOU KNOW?
80% of all life on earth is under the ocean
DID YOU KNOW?
Upwelling occurs when wind pushes the warm surface water away allowing it to be replaced by deep cold water. These deep cold waters are rich in nutrients which help trigger the growth of phytoplankton (microscopic plants) which in turn support an abundance of fish and other aquatic life.