The forest canopy is a world apart from what we’re used to seeing in tropical rainforests. There are countless unique and exceptionally beautiful wild plants and animals living in the canopy.
The wildlife and plant life is hidden within the density of this environment, and getting to see it is a magical opportunity that is not to be missed.
The trees that are able to grow up to the top of this ecosystem can easily be more than 50 metres tall. This is an ideal habitat for diverse, colourful wildlife. However, due to the nature of the forest canopy, it can be difficult to see these mysterious, wonderful creatures from the ground.
Not to worry, however, as there’s a fun and educational way to explore this unique part of the tropical rainforest.
In La Fortuna, Costa Rica, there’s a place called Mistico Park that’s dedicated to adventure ecotourism, and that has 6 hanging bridges from which you can enjoy an incomparable view of the magical forest canopy.
Forest plants are always trying to grow up towards the forest canopy, but not all of them achieve this. Those that do extend their branches as much as possible, in order to promote photosynthesis.
It’s estimated that in a primary rainforest, a seed can take 150 years to grow into a tree that reaches the forest canopy in order to have the best access to sunlight.
The trees that reach the top of the forest are home to beautiful animals that can only be found in the canopy. Some examples are:
There are trees that grow beyond the top of the forest canopy. The trees that reach the top of the forest and still continue to grow are called emergent trees.
Growing this tall requires a lot of energy from these trees, much more than that required from other trees that grow only to the canopy’s height.
One of the reasons that they grow to be so tall is to gain better access to sunlight.
The energy expended by emergent trees to grow is rewarded by their longevity, as they live longer than trees that grow only as high as forest canopy.
Pilón trees are characterized by their need to be pollinated by native bee species in order to survive.
You can see the beauty of these trees from the hanging bridges at Mistico Park. One species that tourists always love to admire is the Pilón tree (Hyeronima alchorneoides).
This tree is widely used in the lumber industry, which is why it’s rare and difficult to find outside of protected areas.
The understory is the layer of vegetation that grows below trees in the jungle. Generally, it refers to that which is growing within the first 5 metres above ground level. Because of the lack of sunlight here, these plants have adapted to living in shady conditions.
Abundant and diverse wildlife can be found in the understory, with birds being one of the most notable species in this habitat. However, unlike the brightly coloured birds that can be seen in the canopy, these birds have more camouflage-like tones.
The forest floor is the layer with the least access to sunlight. In a primary rainforest, only 2 percent of sunlight is able to shine through to the ground.
People generally believe that the soil in tropical rainforests is extremely fertile, however that’s not necessarily the case. Due to high temperatures and humidity, the recycling process for organic matter occurs quickly.
There are many organisms that participate in the recycling process, but the most important are fungi and bacteria.
How few dry leaves there are on the ground is evidence of this fast recycling process. Leaves begin to decompose as soon as they fall to the earth.
The majority of the animals living on the forest floor have muted colours so that they can camouflage themselves. There are some exceptions however, as some of the birds who live in the forest canopy come down to the ground to dig tunnels and nest, as is the case with the white-fronted nunbird and the motmot.
At Mistico Park you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the tropical rainforest in all its splendour. Come and discover the secrets of this wildlife sanctuary in a spectacular way.
Make your way into the heart of the jungle and hike along 16 bridges (6 of which are hanging bridges) that have been built in order to allow people to appreciate the wildlife around them.
Learn about the species living in the different layers of the forest: the canopy, the understory, and the forest floor. During your visit, you will be accompanied by a guide who is knowledgeable about the wildlife at Mistico Park, and who will be in charge of making sure that you enjoy your experience in the heart of the jungle to the fullest.
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