Wallace Stegner, American novelist and environmentalist, rightly said, “National parks are the best idea we’ve ever had.
I recently watched a documentary called “Our Great National Parks”. I was very inspired and moved by it. But it also made me think, what if there were no national parks in the world?
The benefits of national parks go well beyond biodiversity conservation. Humans also benefit from it in different ways. With an increase in species extinction, plastic pollution of the oceans, deforestation, industrialization, mining and poaching, it has become essential to focus our efforts on the conservation of fragile ecosystems and flora and fauna. And national parks are a great way to do it!
What are national parks?
The Oxford Dictionary defines a national park as “a scenic or historically significant area of countryside protected by the federal government for the enjoyment of the general public or the preservation of wildlife”. Britannica describes it as “an area set aside by a national government for the preservation of the natural environment”.
According to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), there are more than 6,500 national parks in the world. Today, 15% of the emerged lands and 8% of the oceans are protected. It demonstrates the commitment of governments of all countries and continents to protect the extraordinary wildlife, unique landscapes and majestic forests of our world.
National Parks in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is home to 5% of the species found in the world, despite making up only 0.03% of the earth’s surface. As incredible as it may seem, Costa Rica once struggled with increasing deforestation and development in the early 20th century. Recognizing the detrimental effects of deforestation on biodiversity and the environment, Costa Rica has begun to reverse deforestation. The expansion of national parks took place rapidly in the 1970s.
Costa Rica is now proud to have 30 national parks to its credit. Today, more than 25% of the territory of Costa Rica is marked for conservation. One of the highest ratios in the world!
List of national parks in Costa Rica
Why are national parks important?
What makes national parks so important? Let’s dig deeper into the importance and significance of national parks.
National parks play a very important role in the conservation of biodiversity by protecting large areas of wilderness. A small change in the ecosystem can lead to large and unpredictable effects on biodiversity. Therefore, it becomes essential to contain natural habitats and provide safe havens for flora and fauna to thrive.
Costa Rica aims to protect more than 200 animals on its endangered species list through its national parks and other protected areas.
Preservation of natural resources
National parks contain a wealth of natural resources like minerals, timber, thermal water, medicines, etc. that many industries would be interested in exploiting for profit. National parks are protected areas, which means that they are the least affected by human activities.
National parks are also a source of renewable energy in the form of solar, hydroelectric, wind and thermal energy.[powerwindenergyandthermalenergy[powerwindenergyandthermalenergy
The vital role of national parks in environmental protection cannot be compromised. Rainforests store carbon dioxide, thereby reducing carbon in the environment and minimizing the carbon footprint generated by humans. About 15% of carbon stores are in national parks and protected areas.
National parks act as a buffer against extreme weather events and help control the climate. They also help to mitigate the impact of natural disasters by protecting against avalanches, landslides, erosion and flooding in forests through soil stabilization. Coral reefs and coastal wetlands in marine national parks protect against hurricanes, typhoons and tsunamis.
National parks have economic value to national and local economies. Costa Rica is taking advantage of the growing demand for tourists visiting these national parks in the form of entry fees. National parks contribute nearly $2 billion to the Costa Rican economy. Many tourists who visit Costa Rica visit at least one national park during their visit. An impressive 122,465 tourists visited Costa Rica’s national parks between December 22, 2021 and January 2, 2022.
Local economies near national parks benefit from job creation and increased tourist spending on hotels, local shops, guides, restaurants, tours, etc. It also benefits from the protection of rural land for agriculture that would otherwise be developed.
Education and awareness
National parks are a great way to educate visitors and raise awareness. Visiting national parks encourages conservation efforts at the individual level. Knowledgeable tour guides and educational materials can inspire a tourist to start participating in conservation.
Each National Park in Costa Rica contains extensive information about the location, its history, conservation efforts, and much more. Some parks also offer guided tours where the guides explain the process or the importance of a particular species in the environment.
25% of all our medicines come from rainforests and scientists are still discovering new medical advances.
In addition, national parks play an important role in improving the physical and mental well-being of individuals. Visiting national parks often involves walking and hiking on designated nature trails. It helps you reconnect with nature, improves lung function, increases vitamin D levels and boosts immunity.
Connecting with nature reduces stress, anxiety, depression and psychological disorders and improves cognitive abilities. Nature can heal your soul and the fresh air helps clear the mind.
The next time you visit a national park in Costa Rica, be grateful for its existence, immerse yourself in the surroundings and take the time to read all the information given there. Finally, leave nothing but footprints behind!