A Synthesis of Long-Term Environmental Change in Santa Rosa, Costa Rica
Long-term monitoring is an essential component of primate conservation, and much of this research is explicitly concerned with how primates respond to and cope with diverse forms of environmental change. Here, I synthesize over four decades of data on environmental change in the Santa Rosa sector the Costa Rica’s Área de Conservación Guanacaste, to stimulate new research on the impacts of environmental change beyond seasonality on Santa Rosa’s primates. Focusing on climate variables and landscape-scale vegetation phenology, I describe and quantify typical seasonal patterns, interannual variability, and long-term trends. Santa Rosa’s highly seasonal rainfall patterns show marked interannual variability that is largely driven by the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). The wettest and driest periods on record have occurred in association with powerful cold ENSO episodes (La Niña) and warm ENSO episodes (El Niño), respectively. Start dates for the wet season can vary by 40 days, but no long-term linear trend was evident in the wet season start dates or in total annual rainfall. Temperature anomalies in Santa Rosa are also strongly associated with ENSO conditions over a backdrop of long-term warming. The annual cycle of plant phenology is dominated by large-scale leaf shedding during the long dry season. The timing and degree of seasonal phenological peaks show complex relationships with rainfall. Long-term data, in combination with the site’s natural environmental variability, provide uniquely quantitative context for understanding primate adaptations to changing environments – a framework that can be extended to ecological forecasting under future environmental change.
KeywordsClimate change Weather Seasonality Landscape Habitat
This chapter grew out of many discussions with Linda Fedigan and her students and collaborators, past and present, about the important role that climate plays in the behaviour, health, and survival of many organisms, including primates. I was motivated to compile this long-term record of environmental change in Santa Rosa by a growing recognition of our planet’s changing climate and a sense of unease about how these changes will affect its biological systems. I thank Linda for introducing me to this glorious corner of northwestern Costa Rica and for her wonderful mentorship and support.
Jeff Klemens and Maria Marta helped to compile the weather data prior to 2006 that were used in this study. Many students and field assistants contributed to the daily weather measurements after 2006. I thank Roger Blanco Segura and the Costa Rican Park Service for their ongoing support and permission to carry out research in the ACG. Richard Corlett, Urs Kalbitzer, and two anonymous reviewers provided very helpful feedback that improved the manuscript. Finally, I thank the organizers of the Fedigan Festschrift for their hard work in editing and assembling this volume and for bringing us together for a terrific conference in Banff to honour Linda’s distinguished career.
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