Area de Conservación Guanacaste

Country
Costa Rica
Inscribed in
1999
Criteria
(ix)
(x)
The conservation outlook for this site has been assessed as "significant concern" in the latest assessment cycle. Explore the Conservation Outlook Assessment for the site below. You have the option to access the summary, or the detailed assessment.
The Area de Conservación Guanacaste (inscribed in 1999), was extended with the addition of a 15,000 ha private property, St Elena. It contains important natural habitats for the conservation of biological diversity, including the best dry forest habitats from Central America to northern Mexico and key habitats for endangered or rare plant and animal species. The site demonstrates significant ecological processes in both its terrestrial and marine-coastal environments. © UNESCO
© IUCN/Elena Osipova

Summary

2020 Conservation Outlook

Finalised on
07 Dec 2020
Significant concern
The site is facing numerous threats, including illegal resource extraction (illegal hunting, fishing and capture of some species for pet trade), fires and pressures from the surrounding agricultural areas, including pollution by agrochemicals. While no systematic information is available about the impacts on populations of key species, the combination of these factors raises serious concerns. While potential impacts of the geothermal energy project close to the boundaries of the site at the Rincón de la Vieja sector have been assessed by the State Party as low, further consideration should be given to potential indirect and cumulative impacts. Climate change will have further significant impacts on both the marine part of the site, with increasing impacts on its coral ecosystems, and its terrestrial areas, which are already vulnerable to fires. At the time, the capacity of site management to address these numerous threats has been limited by the lack of financial and human resources.

Current state and trend of VALUES

High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
While insufficient systematic data is available to evaluate the current conservation status of key habitats and species that make up the site’s Outstanding Universal Value, studies on populations of certain species provide some indicators in this regard. Given the increasing pressures on the site from illegal hunting, fishing and other resource extraction; energy development on the periphery; and transportation infrastructure, it is likely that populations of many species are being significantly affected.
The important successes in restoration of the dry forest are, unfortunately, being offset by the increasingly apparent impacts of climate change, especially with respect to wetland and cloud forest species. Coral bleaching has been observed with the coral reefs of the site and work is ongoing to identify corals which have been most resilient.

Overall THREATS

High Threat
The World Heritage site is facing numerous threats, including illegal resource extraction (illegal hunting, fishing and capture of some species for pet trade), fires and pressures from the surrounding agricultural areas, including pollution by agrochemicals. While no systematic information is available about the impacts on populations of key species, the combination of these factors raises serious concerns. While potential impacts of the geothermal energy project close to the boundaries of the site at the Rincón de la Vieja sector have been assessed by the State Party as low, further consideration should be given to potential indirect and cumulative impacts of geothermal facilities as well as wind farms. Climate change will have further significant impacts on both the marine part of the site, with increasing impacts on its coral ecosystems, and its terrestrial areas which are already vulnerable to fires. 

Overall PROTECTION and MANAGEMENT

Some Concern
Even though the Area de Conservación Guanacaste is one of the most iconic and well-known protected areas in Costa Rica, and while effective management programmes are in place (including the 2014 Integrated Management Plan), the site faces a number of challenges. One of the main causes is the lack of financial and human resources, which hinders effective implementation of the management programmes and effective law enforcement in the face of numerous and increasing threats, including illegal hunting and fishing, as well as fires.

Full assessment

Click the + and - signs to expand or collapse full accounts of information under each topic. You can also view the entire list of information by clicking Expand all on the top left.

Finalised on
07 Dec 2020

Description of values

Complex ecological processes and interactions at all levels of biodiversity

Criterion
(ix)
A striking feature of Area de Conservación Guanacaste is the wealth of ecosystem and habitat diversity, all connected through an uninterrupted gradient from the Pacific Ocean across the highest peaks to the lowlands on the Caribbean side. The many landscape and forest types include mangrove, lowland rainforest, premontane and montane humid forest, cloud forest, as well as oak forest and savannah with evergreen gallery forest along the many water courses. Along the transect, the World Heritage site allows migration, genetic exchange and complex ecological processes and interactions at all levels of biodiversity, including between land and sea. The vast dry forest is a rare feature of enormous conservation value, as most dry forests elsewhere in the region have become small fragmented remnants. Conservation has allowed the natural restoration of previously degraded forest ecosystems, currently serving again as a safe haven for the many species depending on this threatened ecosystem. Major nutrient-rich cold upwelling currents offshore result in a high marine productivity and are the foundation of a diverse coastal-marine ecosystem containing important coral reefs, algae beds, estuaries, mangroves, sandy and cobble beaches, shore dunes and wetlands (World Heritage Committee, 2013).

Globally important site for conservation of the tropical biodiversity

Criterion
(x)
The Site is globally important for in situ conservation of the tropical biological diversity as it constitutes the only example in the Neotropics of a climatic and altitudinal transect, continuous and well protected, through a series of marine and terrestrial ecosystems that include dry, cloud and rain forests. In addition it allows the restoration and conservation of the largest, best preserved and most representative sample of species characteristic of the Neotropical dry forest, a highly vulnerable and currently endangered ecosystem. The variations in elevation, soils, and climatic conditions favour the existence of a high diversity of habitats with approximately 335,000 terrestrial species, which represent 67% of the species described for Costa Rica and an estimated 2.6% of the world biodiversity, in an area of only 147,000 ha. This outstanding variety of coastal-marine and terrestrial species, both residents and migratory, include some rare, endemic or endangered species. Thus, in the site more than 7,000 species of plants coexist, among which some of the best-conserved Central American populations of mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla), royal guayacan (Guaiacum sanctum), and several agave and cactus species. Likewise, there is a remarkable diversity of 942 vertebrate species. Invertebrate diversity is extraordinary, with an estimated 20,000 species of beetles, 13,000 species of ants, bees and wasps, and 8,000 species of butterflies and moths (World Heritage Committee, 2013).

Important habitat of several endangered mammal species

Criterion
(x)
Some notable mammal species include the endangered Baird's Tapir (Tapirus bairdii), Jaguar (Panthera onca), Margay (Leopardus wiedii), Jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi) and Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), at least 40 species of bats (World Heritage Committee, 2013), as well as numerous primate species, such as the endangered Geoffroy's spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi) (Cuarón, 2008).
 

Diversity of bird species

Criterion
(x)
Among some 500 bird species are the endangered Mangrove Hummingbird (Amazilia boucardi) and Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus), and the vulnerable Military Macaw (Ara militaris) (World Heritage Committee, 2013).

Important habitat of several reptile species and a massive breeding population of the olive Ridley turtle

Criterion
(x)
Charismatic and representative reptiles include the vulnerable American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) and the spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodilus). Several species of sea turtles breed and nest in the World Heritage site, such as the critically endangered leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) and a massive breeding population of the vulnerable olive Ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) (World Heritage Committee, 2013).

Area of high marine productivity and high diversity of coastal-marine ecosystems

Criterion
(ix)
Major nutrient-rich cold upwelling currents offshore result in a high marine productivity and are the foundation of a diverse coastal-marine ecosystem containing important coral reefs, algal beds, estuaries, mangroves, sandy and cobble beaches, shore dunes and wetlands. The largely intact coastal-marine interface is remarkable, particularly in a region where coasts have disproportionally suffered from human pressure (World Heritage Commitee, 2013).

Assessment information

High Threat
The site is facing numerous threats, including illegal resource extraction (illegal hunting, fishing and capture of some species for pet trade), fires and pressures from the surrounding agricultural areas, including pollution by agrochemicals. While no systematic information is available about the impacts on populations of key species, the combination of these factors raises serious concerns.
Fishing / Harvesting Aquatic Resources
(Overfishing of coastal waters)
High Threat
Inside site
, Widespread(15-50%)
Outside site
Commercial fishing for shrimp in the areas surrounding the marine component of the World Heritage site and artisanal fishing for snappers and crabs combine to alter the very rich marine ecosystems (UNEP-WCMC, 2011). Fishing of reef fish is also occurring at Area de Conservación Guanacaste (Cortés et al., 2010). Illegal fishing also occurs within the site (UNESCO, 2017). Illegal fishing remains to be systematically addressed. According to the general management plan, overfishing is a “very high threat” due to a “lack of management” (UNESCO and IUCN, 2018).
Hunting and trapping
(Illegal hunting)
High Threat
Inside site
, Extent of threat not known
Illegal hunting has been reported to occur in the site, including for commercial and recreational purposes (UNESCO, 2017). While no impacts of these activities on the populations of target species have been estimated, it can have potentially significant negative impacts. Despite a strict legal framework, poaching and wildlife trade are recognized as high threats in the general management plan. Several of ACG’s parrot species are vulnerable to poaching for the national and international pet trade, the best-known example being the endangered Yellow-naped Amazon (Amazona auropalliata) (UNESCO and IUCN, 2018).
Fire/ Fire Suppression
(Fires)
High Threat
Inside site
, Scattered(5-15%)
Outside site
The area is vulnerable to fires caused by a number of factors, including farming and ranching in the surrounding areas, as well as illegal hunting within the World Heritage site. The important dry forests are particularly vulnerable (UNESCO, 2017), and fires there are considered a very high threat (UNESCO and IUCN, 2018). Dynamics of landforms and fire suppression are under study (Jones and Álvarez, 2018; Vargas-Sanabria and Quesada-Román, 2018).
Other Biological Resource Use
(Illegal collection of sea turtle eggs)
Low Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
Illegal collection of sea turtle eggs for human consumption and also assumed medicinal purposes has been reported (UNESCO, 2017). This threat is particularly worrying given the reported declines in the mass nestings (arribadas) of the Olive Ridley turtle at Playa Nancite within the site (UNESCO, 2017), a 90% reduction in the number of nesting females from 1971 to 2007. However, there are no simple explanations for the declines. The 2018 Reactive Monitoring Mission reports that the declines are not a function of local management shortcomings (UNESCO and IUCN, 2018).  Illegal harvest of eggs is common in the "Agropaisaje" of the Guanacaste Conservation Area, targeting eggs of all species of sea turtles that nest there. 
Droughts, Temperature extremes
(Climate change)
Very High Threat
Inside site
, Throughout(>50%)
Outside site
On-going climate change results in a warmer and drier climate and has increased fire potential, not only in the dry forest, but now also increasingly in moist forests. Habitat shifts to higher elevations are now being detected in terrestrial areas. Altitudinal migration from the dry forest to the mountains of some species has been noted over the last 15 years due to effects of climate change (https://www.acguanacaste.ac.cr/acg). Other effects on the terrestrial environments include droughts, increased risks of fires and decreasing water availability (Various media sources, https://www.ameliarueda.com/nota/cambio-climatico-guanacaste-desertificacion-alerta-SINAC, accessed 11 September 2017). Coral reefs in the Pacific areas of Costa Rica have been significantly affected in the last two decades due to El Niño (Cortés et al., 2010). Coral bleaching has been observed with the coral reefs of the site in recent years and work is ongoing to identify corals which have been most resilient (Area de Conservación Guanacaste, 2017). Sea turtles in North Pacific Costa Rica are also highly affected by El Niño events and threatened by climate change due to the negative effect of high temperatures and low precipitation on hatching success and emergence of hatchlings from the nest (Santidrián Tomillo et al. 2012, 2020). Climate change projections have showed that sea turtle populations will be further threatened in this area due to climate change.
Crops
(Pressures from the surrounding agricultural landscape)
High Threat
Outside site
Agricultural areas outside the World Heritage site are affecting it in a number of ways, including through pollution by agrochemicals (State Party of Costa Rica, 2019).
Roads/ Railroads, Utility / Service Lines
(Inter-American Highway)
High Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
Outside site
The Inter-American Highway passes through the site at two points, including a 13-km long section. Concrete road enhancement and expansion projects are under discussion. Several culverts are used as unintended wildlife passages, but the current design prevents some species from using them. Ongoing studies confirm that vegetation management along the highway influences the intensity and types of road mortality (UNESCO and IUCN, 2018).
Low Threat
While potential impacts of the geothermal energy project close to the boundaries of the site at the Rincón de la Vieja sector have been assessed by the State Party as low, further consideration should be given to potential indirect and cumulative impacts of geothermal facilities as well as wind farms. Climate change will have further significant impacts on both the marine part of the site, with increasing impacts on its coral ecosystems, and its terrestrial areas, which are already vulnerable to fires. 
Renewable Energy
(Geothermal energy)
Low Threat
Outside site
A geothermal energy project has been approved with geothermal generation installations to be located at the Rincon de la Vieja volcano and potentially impacting on one of the components of this serial site (Various news sources, 2014). The project includes several phases with some geothermal facilities already in place and further ones being planned. The potential impacts of the project have been assessed as low (State Party of Costa Rica, 2016) and the previously discussed plans to excise 1,056 ha from the protected area to facilitate the project have now been abandoned. All geothermal infrastructure would be located outside the boundaries of the World Heritage site and a project is currently being implemented to assess potential impacts on biodiversity (State Party of Costa Rica, 2016). While the confirmation that no geothermal facilities would be located within the site is reassuring, the fact that the project site is just outside the boundaries of the site raises concerns. However, there is good coordination between the authorities of the site and the public institution that develops geothermal energy, where important advances have been made in favor of its correct and adequate development. An important program of biological and environmental monitoring is carried out, based on the environmental study of the project (IUCN Consultation, 2020). Nonetheless, more consideration should be given to indirect and cumulative impacts of the project and other activities and development (UNESCO, 2017). There is no evidence that environmental impact assessments considered the potential impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value of the site  (UNESCO and IUCN, 2018), and the geothermal potential of the region may be higher than previously thought (Tassi et al., 2018).
Droughts, Temperature extremes
(Accelerating climate change)
Very High Threat
Inside site
, Throughout(>50%)
Outside site
As the rate of climate change increases, habitat shifts will be accelerated, a number of cloud forest species will die out, the chances of fire in moist and wet forests will increase, and fire incursions from private properties in the buffer zone will increase. The dry forest will have more extreme droughts, with which there will be a strong impact on the flora (Power et al., 2020; Castro et al., 2018) and fauna. Higher impact fires could be established as there is more fuel (dried trees) available in the forest.
Roads/ Railroads, Shipping Lanes
(Interoceanic Dry Canal (Canal Seco))
Very Low Threat
Inside site
, Extent of threat not known
Outside site
A plan existed to develop an Interoceanic Dry Canal (Canal Seco) to connect the Pacific Coast with the Caribbean coast through a combination of transport infrastructure (ports, highways, railways), primarily for cargo transport (various media sources, see for example https://www.crhoy.com/nacionales/2017-el-ano-del-canal-seco-interoceanico/, accessed 11 September 2017). Given that the infrastructure would need to go through areas in close proximity of the site or even through it due to its geographic location, potential impacts on the sit would be extremely high. In December 2018 the National Council for Concessions declared the plans null and void (UNESCO, 2019), virtually eliminating the threat, unless a similar plan is revived.
Renewable Energy
(Wind Energy)
Low Threat
Outside site
Two wind parks in the immediate vicinity of the site were constructed without any Environmental Impact Assessments of potential impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value of Area de Conservación Guanacaste, and without being communicated to UNESCO at the proposal stage. Several new projects are being considered, but monitoring of fatality of bat, bird and insect species is not in place to guide mitigation (e.g., shutting down during bird migration) (UNESCO and IUCN, 2018).
The World Heritage site is facing numerous threats, including illegal resource extraction (illegal hunting, fishing and capture of some species for pet trade), fires and pressures from the surrounding agricultural areas, including pollution by agrochemicals. While no systematic information is available about the impacts on populations of key species, the combination of these factors raises serious concerns. While potential impacts of the geothermal energy project close to the boundaries of the site at the Rincón de la Vieja sector have been assessed by the State Party as low, further consideration should be given to potential indirect and cumulative impacts of geothermal facilities as well as wind farms. Climate change will have further significant impacts on both the marine part of the site, with increasing impacts on its coral ecosystems, and its terrestrial areas which are already vulnerable to fires. 
Management system
Mostly Effective
Área de Conservación Guanacaste is a conservation complex comprised of contiguous protected areas which has expanded over time. A good management system is in place with a new Integrated Management Plan (IMP) elaborated in 2014 (State Party of Costa Rica, 2017). Oversight and participation is foreseen through technical, local, as well as regional councils. The integrated management has the dual long-term objective of conservation and restoration. More specifically, management objectives include incorporation of adjacent areas of conservation interest, payment for environmental services schemes; ecological research and outreach programs (UNESCO and IUCN, 2018).
Effectiveness of management system
Some Concern
Effective implementation of management programmes is hindered by the lack of human and financial resources (UNESCO and IUCN, 2018).
Boundaries
Mostly Effective
The site consists of different sectors and includes both marine and terrestrial areas which contributes to its high diversity of habitats and the conservation of the uninterrupted gradient from the Pacific Ocean across the highest peaks to the lowlands on the Caribbean side (World Heritage Committee, 2013). The boundary of the World Heritage site and the national management area of the same name do not coincide exactly. A Minor Boundary Modification is recommended, possibly to include the recently designated Bahia Santa Elena Marine Management Area (UNESCO, 2019).
Integration into regional and national planning systems
Some Concern
All of Costa Rica is legally divided into conservation areas, with the Guanacaste Conservation Area among them. But as of 2006, no planning system was in place at the regional level, and overall strategic plans at the national level were heavily criticized (Bermudez Acuña, 2006). Concerns have been expressed that the site finds itself isolated within the surrounding agricultural landscape with the associated pressures (UNESCO, 2017). While the administrative governance approach and structure is widely considered exemplary from a conceptual perspective, implementation gaps are noted, due in part of funding limitations (UNESCO and IUCN, 2018).
Relationships with local people
Some Concern
Decades of work with local communities, hiring of local workers, inclusion of local people on the Area’s Management Committee, and long-term environmental education efforts, have resulted in relatively good relationships with most local people (UNEP-WCMC, 2011; IUCN Consultation, 2010). However, despite these efforts, concerns remain and the increasing pressures on the site from illegal hunting and fires indicate potential conflicts with the surrounding communities (IUCN Consultation, 2017). Additional efforts are also required to work more closely with the surrounding ranches in order to prevent any potential human-wildlife conflicts. Working more closely with local communities, building support and developing cooperation and partnerships would also help to some extend mitigate the scarce resource available for the management of the World Heritage site and even reduce some threats (IUCN Consultation, 2017). Local (COLAC) and regional (CORAC) councils could and should be more dynamic, in the opinion of many (UNESCO and IUCN, 2018).
Legal framework
Highly Effective
The legal framework is based on comprehensive national legislation from the mid-1990s, including the Environmental, Forest and Biodiversity laws.
Law enforcement
Some Concern
Enforcement presents many challenges, including in the marine and coastal parts of the World Heritage site. Illegal hunting and accidental and intentional fires still occur (UNESCO, 2017). The capacity to ensure effective law enforcement is limited by the lack of human and financial resources. Anecdotally, the management presence and level of law enforcement is considered less intense in the mountains than in the dry forest, and is least in the marine areas of the site (UNESCO and IUCN, 2018).
Implementation of Committee decisions and recommendations
Some Concern
The most recent World Heritage Committee Decision (2019) noted that no detailed information had been provided by the State Party concerning the implementation of the recommendations of the 2018 Reactive Monitoring Mission (UNESCO, 2019), therefore it will need to be further assessed how these recommendations have been followed upon.
Sustainable use
Highly Effective
The major uses permitted in the site are tourism, education and research, and all are carried out on a sustainable basis (UNEP-WCMC, 2011). The sit seeks to demonstrate conservation through "biodevelopment, that is, that biodiversity and ecosystems are important producers of goods and services" (Area de Conservación Guanacaste, 2020; Janzen and Hallwachs, 2020; SINAC, 2020).
Sustainable finance
Some Concern
A Trust Fund for the management of the site has been in place since the late 1980s, and provides it with long-term funding that is complemented by government finance, and user fees (UNEP-WCMC, 2011). The Guanacaste Dry Forest Conservation Fund (Guanacaste Dry Forest Conservation Fund, 2019) invests about USD 1,000,000 annually in supporting 26% of the 150 ACG regional staff members (IUCN Consultation, 2013). However, the site is not sustainable financially without this external funding (IUCN Consultation, 2017). Despite the diverse funding structure, additional and sustainable funding schemes are needed to enhance the operational management capacity in the face of mounting challenges (UNESCO and IUCN, 2018). There is room for further developing more systematic and strategic Payment for Ecological Services schemes (Chapman, et al., 2020).
Staff capacity, training, and development
Some Concern
Lack of human resources has been reported as a significant constraint (UNESCO, 2017). Moreover, the limited personnel has to devote a significant amount of time and efforts to tourism management and the capacity and expertise for wildlife monitoring and management is limited (IUCN Consultation, 2017). The site has a staff of ~150 paraprofessional resident Costa Ricans (Janzen and Hallwachs, 2020).
Education and interpretation programs
Mostly Effective
On-going education and interpretation programs for local communities and schools have been part of the management programs; including considerable investment in communication and environmental education (UNESCO and IUCN, 2018). The Biological Education Program reaches the annual participation of more than 1600 students per year belonging to 31 educational centers located in the periphery of the World Heritage Site (State Party of Costa Rica, 2018).
Tourism and visitation management
Mostly Effective
A visitor center in Santa Rosa National Park provides information to visitors on restoration of the dry forest ecosystem, biodiversity in general, available activities, and the historic significance of the Casona historic site (UNEP-WCMC, 2011). A new visitor center in the Rincón de la Vieja National Park receives an important visitation (90,000 visitors) and facilitates the enjoyment and recognition of the humid forests (Ecotourism Program, 2018).
Monitoring
Some Concern
No recent information is available on this matter; however, given the overall lack of financial and human resources (UNESCO, 2017), the large territory of the site and the diversity of its habitats and species, the capacity of site management to undertake comprehensive monitoring of key species and habitats is most likely limited. However, the World Heritage site has strongly supported research and monitoring by third parties (universities, researchers), and good information base is available for some species (monkeys, turtles, jaguars) and habitats (IUCN Consultation, 2020). Monitoring of biodiversity in the area of geothermal projects at the boundary has been initiated (State Party of Costa Rica, 2018). The State has been promoting the National Ecological Monitoring Program (PRONAMEC) and protocols have recently been made official to be implemented (according to capacities) throughout the conservation system (IUCN Consultation, 2020).
Research
Highly Effective
There are 5 main research stations and other smaller research facilities distributed throughout the site, and about 100 new scientific papers are published every year. Research programs include forest ecology, fauna, savanna succession, effects of fire, and the behavior and ecology of vertebrate fauna, notably the olive Ridley turtle (UNEP-WCMC, 2011).
Even though the Area de Conservación Guanacaste is one of the most iconic and well-known protected areas in Costa Rica, and while effective management programmes are in place (including the 2014 Integrated Management Plan), the site faces a number of challenges. One of the main causes is the lack of financial and human resources, which hinders effective implementation of the management programmes and effective law enforcement in the face of numerous and increasing threats, including illegal hunting and fishing, as well as fires.
Assessment of the effectiveness of protection and management in addressing threats outside the site
Some Concern
Development of geothermal and wind energy facilities up to the very boundary of the World Heritage site have not included assessments of potential and cumulative impacts on its Outstanding Univesal Value (UNESCO and IUCN, 2018) and concerns remain about possible cumulative impacts of these different energy projects (UNESCO, 2019).
World Heritage values

Complex ecological processes and interactions at all levels of biodiversity

Critical
Trend
Deteriorating
On-going recuperation of the dry forest habitat is one of the success stories of conservation of this site. At the same time, the impacts of climate change on ecological processes in both marine and terrestrial environments are already evident, causing significant and measurable impacts on vulnerable species. The uninterrupted natural gradients of the site from sea-level to mountain tops, and the variations in elevation soils and climate facilitate the shifting of lowland and lower montane habitats upwards, but cloud forest habitats and rain forest habitats are less able to adapt and are suffering the greatest impacts (UNEP-WCMC, 2011). A recent review posits that the diverse ecosystems of the site hold hope for major biodiversity survival, albeit in new community assemblages (Janzen and Hallwachs, 2020; Swenson, et al., 2019).

Globally important site for conservation of the tropical biodiversity

High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
As a spatio-temporal mosaic of forests, the site continues to shape research on plant ecology (Hulshof and Powers, 2019). While no systematic data is available to evaluate the current conservation status of key habitats and species that make up the site’s OUV, studies on populations of certain species provide some indicators in this regard.
Given the increasing pressures on the site from illegal hunting, fishing and other resource extraction, it is likely that populations of many species are being significantly affected. Some scientists opine that cloud forests are likely to disappear within decades (UNESCO and IUCN, 2018). Dry forests are more susceptible to droughts (Castro et al., 2018).
 

Important habitat of several endangered mammal species

Low Concern
Trend
Improving
A study estimating abundance of some feline species in Santa Rosa National Park, which forms part of the site, found an increase in the numbers of the jaguar (Panthera onca) between 2001 and 2011 and a decrease in the number of cougars during the same period; the number of ocelots remained stable (Guadamuz et al., 2015). Recent studies using trap cameras reveal an increase in the jaguar population within the World Heritage site (Rodriguez, 2020).

Diversity of bird species

Low Concern
Trend
Data Deficient
No systematic data is available, however, IUCN Red List assessments for some endangered species found in the site, such as the great green macaw (Ara ambiguus) and the mangrove hummingbird (Amazilia boucardi) show decreasing population trends (BirdLife International, 2016a; BirdLife International, 2016b). On the other hand, populations of yellow-naped parrot (Amazona auropalliata) are believed to have increased (State Party of Costa Rica, 2018). Other recent studies show that bird communities have recovered with the restoration of the dry forest in the Santa Rosa National Park (Owen et al., 2020).

Important habitat of several reptile species and a massive breeding population of the olive Ridley turtle

High Concern
Trend
Improving
Concerns remain regarding the decline of mass nestings (arribadas) of the olive Ridley turtle on the Playa Nancite within the site (State Party of Costa Rica, 2016). The population has increased slightly since 2007, and there was an increase in hatchlings in the 2016-2017 season (State Party of Costa Rica), but it is too early to tell if that is an indicator of recovery. Recent results of the monitoring of arrivals and births indicate a possible increase in recruitment, which may cause the recovery of the population in the medium term (Fonseca et al., 2020). However, leatherback turtles are critically endangered in the eastern Pacific region and the number of nests registered at Playa Naranjo, an important nesting site for the species, is currently very low (Santidrián Tomillo et al. 2017).

Area of high marine productivity and high diversity of coastal-marine ecosystems

High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
The coral reefs within the site had been impacted by the effects of El Niño in the past (Cortés, 2010). Coral bleaching has been observed with the coral reefs of the site in recent years and work is ongoing to identify corals which have been most resilient (Area de Conservación Guanacaste, 2017 - https://www.acguanacaste.ac.cr/38-espanol/noticias/noticias-programa-de-investigacion/3859-buscando-corales-sobrevivientes-de-blanqueamiento-en-el-sector-marino, accessed 11 September 2017).
Assessment of the current state and trend of World Heritage values
High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
While insufficient systematic data is available to evaluate the current conservation status of key habitats and species that make up the site’s Outstanding Universal Value, studies on populations of certain species provide some indicators in this regard. Given the increasing pressures on the site from illegal hunting, fishing and other resource extraction; energy development on the periphery; and transportation infrastructure, it is likely that populations of many species are being significantly affected.
The important successes in restoration of the dry forest are, unfortunately, being offset by the increasingly apparent impacts of climate change, especially with respect to wetland and cloud forest species. Coral bleaching has been observed with the coral reefs of the site and work is ongoing to identify corals which have been most resilient.

Additional information

Importance for research
Research work at the 5 research stations and other smaller facilities distributed throughout the World Heritage site, generate about 100 scientific papers every year. Research programs include forest ecology, fauna, savanna succession, the effects of fire, and the behavior and ecology of vertebrate fauna, notably the olive Ridley turtle. The inventory of vertebrates, insects and aquatic biota in the area has been ongoing since 1973 although the biota of the serpentine barrens is yet to be thoroughly studied. More than two million labelled insects from the site are deposited in the collections of the National Institute of Biodiversity (UNEP-WCMC, 2011; Molina, 1999).
Access to drinking water
Area de Conservación Guanacaste is important for water provision and water regulation services (https://www.acguanacaste.ac.cr/acg).
Factors negatively affecting provision of this benefit
Climate change
Impact level - High
Trend - Increasing
The site is globally important for biodiversity conservation as it constitutes a well-documented example of a continuous and well conserved and protected climatic and altitudinal transect in the Neotropics, through a series of marine and terrestrial ecosystems that include dry, cloud and rain forests. In addition, it allows the restoration of the largest, best-preserved and most representative sample of species characteristic of the Neotropical dry forest, a highly vulnerable ecosystem. The variations in elevation, soils, and climatic conditions favor the existence of a high diversity of habitats. Research work at the 5 research stations, distributed throughout the World Heritage site, generates about 100 scientific papers every year and it has been a useful example of different processes (fire management, restoration, biological education etc.) in conservation of tropical ecosystems.
Organization Brief description of Active Projects Website
1 National Parks Foundation Administration of the Trust for the Conservation Area and support as a legal figure in administrative activities.
https://fpn-cr.org/
2 Guanacaste Dry Forest Conservation Fund NGO dedicated to the conservation in perpetuity of the biodiversity and ecosystems of the ACG (World Heritage Site and adjacent protected areas).
http://www.gdfcf.org

References

References
1
Area de Conservación Guanacaste (2017), https://www.acguanacaste.ac.cr/38-espanol/noticias/noticias…, accessed 11 September 2017
2
Area de Conservación Guanacaste. (2020). [online] Available at:  https://www.acguanacaste.ac.cr/index.php  
3
Bermudez Acuna, Fernando. 2006. Resultados de la evaluacion de la efectividad de manejo de 25 areas silvestres protegidas de Costa Rica. Centro Cientifico Tropical. http://www.sinac.go.cr/libreria/efectividad_%20de_%20manejo…
4
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