Negative Effect Of Human Impact On Biodiversity In Costa Rican Rainforest

(Presented with permission by the student author in
Paul Anderson's Latin America course in Fall 1998.)

If you have not read the explanatory materials, this literature search is NOT a good place to start. Please go to the Literature Search Home Page.


With such a complex ecosystem, biodiversity issues seem to be poorly defined. This research makes an attempt to classify sources regarding the negative effects of human impact on biodiversity in Costa Rican rainforests. All sources found show a general commonality regarding the need for conservation of rainforests, but a wide range of specifics were discovered upon researching.

Sources can be broken up into several categories that address this issue from different angles. The results of the literature search are as follows:

NOTE:  This and other red-italic comments have been added by the instructor:   Notice how the writer clearly categorized the paper according to the depth and degree of relevance to the specific topic. This is one of the many ways you could divide the lit search into sub-topics.

  1. Basic understanding of the ecological causes and consequences of changes in biodiversity is vital to conservation efforts (Perrings et. al, 1997; Abe & Levin, 1996).

Although excellent sources in defining negative effects of biodiversity loss, only a general reference to Costa Rica is made in the above mentioned sources.

On the other hand, these two books are great sources of information to start with if one were actually writing a paper on this topic. I found the literature to be quite extensive and helpful in terms of classification of biodiversity.

  1. The complex issue concerning loss of biological diversity cannot be seen as unrelated to the social and economic needs of Costa Rica (Almeda, 1984: Vandermeer & Perfecto, 1995). We can see that these sources link the effects of habitat destruction directly with social and economic needs.

In each subtopic, the writer tells enough information to convey what he found, but without adding too much content to make it resemble a term paper. The source is provided in the bibliography if the reader wants more details.

Although briefly touching on my topic, these sources would probably be better suited in a literature search regarding social and economic policy.

  1. One author proposes the method of addressing the issue of human impact on biodiversity in Costa Rica by performing specific case studies (Clark & Clark, 1992).

Further research revealed specific examples of case studies. A positive correlation is found between specific trees and ants in respect to their lack of presence on the surrounding biodiversity (Clark & Clark, 1992; Vandermeer & Perfecto, 1996; Tenebaum, 1995).

  1. Interestingly I obtained another group of journal articles that are non-specific to the effects of biodiversity loss, however propose solutions to the "problem" of deforestation in Costa Rica.

This group of authors mentions Ecotourism several times throughout their literature as a response or solution to deforestation.

Ecotourism is the key to raising funds that would protect and conserve rainforests, as well as increase public awareness of deforestation (Menkhaus & Lober, 1996; Castro, 1998; Motavalli, 1996).

Also, another source contends that more attention should be given to the setting up of National Parks (Rodriguez 1997). Although few details are given in this article, I group it under this category because of its general tie with ecotourism.

  1. The next grouping of journal articles again reveals a non-specific definition of biodiversity loss, but the following authors link deforestation directly with soil erosion and further ramifications.

In Costa Rica, deforested land is worth more than forested land; in addition, deforestation means erosion of topsoil (Jukofsky, 1992). This seems to be the main theme of this article, but it does not use a working definition of biodiversity.

Despite their lack of mentioning biodiversity specifically, the following articles touch on some important biological ramifications of deforestation leading to soil erosion. Soil studies in Costa Rica show that rain washes away more topsoil each year, causing massive changes in soil morphology, faunal activity and microbial biomass (Henrot & Robertson, 1994; Wielemaker & Lansu, 1991; Palmer, 1998; Jukofsky, 1992).

This same information was found in four different sources.

  1. Lutz and Caldecott consider deforestation to be a devastating blow to Costa Rica’s diversity and further go on to point a finger at the private landowner practicing agriculture and ranching in the rainforest areas (Lutz & Caldecott, 1996). A good article, it hits on many facets of my topic.

In addition, Coffee echoes these same concerns but he does not use Costa Rica as a specific example (Coffee, 1996).


  1. The last sources I will group together discuss a positive correlation is shown between the population of humans in Costa Rica and the rate of deforestation (Rosero-Bixby & Palloni, 1998; Clark & Clark, 1995).

8) One other source that I have relates to my topic, however its contents are overly

complicated and do not lend any practical information to the good of this literature search (Hall & Walker, 1995). Out of all of my sources, I feel that this is the only one that would not help if I were to write a term paper on this topic.

In conclusion, although the topic was thoroughly covered, some sources need to be linked into the topic rather than dealing specifically with the issues named therein.

I believe there is more than adequate information here to compile and piece together a paper concerning my literature search topic; however, for the purpose of this assignment, I must say that I do not think that my topic was specifically covered that well. Again, I obtained excellent information, just not too much specific information with respect to my topic. Considering the workload of this literature search, this is a little disenchanting. However, I do feel that I have exhausted my available resources and I have provided a future researcher with an excellent place to start.

He concludes by summarizing not only what he found, but also what he did not find, which is an important part of literature searching.

An excellent source of background and slightly specific information to my topic is given in these two books devoted entirely to biodiversity (Perrings et. al, 1997; Abe & Levin 1996).

If I would have had more time, I may have read both of these books cover to cover. I think that upon reading these two books, I might obtain a greater working definition of biodiversity and use this knowledge to improve on my literature search.

Overall I would rate the majority of my sources as excellent, however it is apparent that few of these sources would cover the parameters of my topic on an individual basis.



Almeda, Frank (1984). Tropical Rainforests: Diversity and Conservation. San Francisco:

California Academy of Sciences.

Abe, Takuya and Levin, Simon (1996). Biodiversity: An Ecological Perspective. New York: Springer-Verlag, Inc.

Castro, Rene (1998). "Costa Rica: Committed to Conservation." World and I, 13, 65-66.

Clark, David A. and Clark, Deborah B. (1995). "Edaphic and Human Effects on Landscape-Scale Distributions of Tropical Rain Forest Palms." Ecology, 76, 2581-2594.

Clark, David A. and Clark, Deborah B. (1992). "Life History Diversity of Canopy and

Emergent Trees in a Neotropical Rain Forest." Ecological Monographs, 62, 315-344.

Coffee, Russell G. (1996). The Truth About Rainforest Destruction. Austin: Better Planet


Forsyth, Adrian and Miyata, Ken (1995). Tropical Nature: Life and Death in the Rain Forests of Central and South America. New York: Touchstone.

Hall, Pamela and Walker, Sarah (1994). "Effect of Forest Fragmentation on Genetic

Diversity and Mating System in a Tropical Tree." Conservation Biology, 10, 757-768.

Henrot, Jacqueline and Robertson, Philip G. (1994). "Vegetation Removal in Two Soils of the Humid Tropics: Effect on Microbial Biomass." Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 26, 111-116.

Jukosfsky, Diane (1992). "Rainforests at Risk." American Forests, 44, 36-38.

Lutz, Earnest and Caldecott, Julian (1996). Decentralization and Biodiversity Conservation. Washington: The World Bank.

Menkhaus, Susan and Lober, Douglas J. (1996). "International Ecotourism and the Valuation of Tropical Rainforests in Costa Rica." Journal of Environmaental Management, 47, 10-16.

Motavalli, Jim (1996). "Nature’s Way: Costa Rica is Small, but it’s Teeming with Forest

Life." Ecology, 7, 48-50.

Palmer, B. (1998). "Your Pollution, Our Forest: Costa Rica." The Economist, 347, 36-37.

Perrings, Charles, Koral-Goran Maler, Carl Folke, C.S. Holling and Bengt Jansson (1997). Biodiversity Loss: Economic and Ecological Issues. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Perry, Donald (1986). Life Above the Jungle Floor. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Rosero-Bixby, Luis and Palloni, Alberto (1998). "Population and Deforestation in Costa

Rica." Population and Environment, 20, 149-179.

Rodriguez, Jose Maria (1997). "Costa Rican Parks: Fields of Conflict." Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy, 12, 49-53.

Tenebaum, David (1995). "Drawing a Green Line: Costa Rica Makes Audacious Plans to

Reclaim its Forests." Ecology, 6, 26-30.

Vandermeer, J. and Perfecto, Ivette (1995). "Microclimatic Changes and the Indirect Loss

of Ant Diversity in a Tropical Agrosystem." Oecologia, 108, 577-582.

Vandermeer, J. and Perfecto, Ivette (1995). "Slicing up the Rain Forest on your Breakfast

Cereal." The Humanist, 55, 24-31.

Wielemaker, W.G. and Lansu, A.L.E. (1991). "Land-Use Changes Affecting Classification of a Costa Rican Soil." Soil Science Society of America, 55, 1621-1624.




Although I spent hours agonizing over just what a "literature search" actually is, I must say that it is a beneficial assignment. I am graduating in December 98 and I have twice before been involved in an intensive search for literature on a specific topic. However, unlike this time, the previous two examples resulted in a type of "term paper".

I have to mention though, if I had not gone through those previous large research projects I would have had a much harder time with this assignment. On the other hand, if I had taken your class earlier I am willing to bet that I might have had an easier time writing a "term paper". In this way, I think learning how to do a literature search is a good idea for college students. Sure I could have done without this project in my last semester here, but I truly didn’t mind doing the research. Actually, it is the typing that I hate the most.

I think the most important factor in conducting a literature search is the selection of a topic that is of interest to you. If there is any message that should be emphasized, it is "make sure you like your topic". Other than that, I don’t see how someone can become stressed out just by looking for current information on a topic that they are interested in.

Now, typing is a whole other ballgame…

Return to Literature Search Home Page