The Park has ecosystems with a large variety and number of plant species; these include thorny scrubland, dry, rain and cloud forests. The rainforest towards the east of the park remains exuberant and green the whole year while the dry forest of this protected area is one of the best preserved in the country. The coastal marine ecosystems consist of soft sedimentary floors, coral reefs, coastal lagoons, rocky shores, sandy beaches, seagrass beds and mangrove forests.

Seagrass Beds

Seagrass beds develop on sandy and muddy coastal floors with algae and animals forming a community that relates to the coral reefs. Since they retain and accumulate sediment, the seagrass beds modify the topography of the floor until they rise almost to the surface. In this phase, they can be invaded by mangroves, enabling thus the advance of coastland over the sea. The seagrass is eaten by turtles and manatees while fish and urchins only take partial advantage of it.

Illustration by Laura Pérez

Mangrove Swamps

Mangrove swamps are a type of forest adapted to shallow and brackish water on the coastline and mouths of rivers. Entering the labyrinth of the mangrove swamp within the silence of a paddle canoe is like visiting a cathedral full of life, from the columns that emerge from the water to the canopy that seals the top like a vault. Life is everywhere, fish below, birds above, crabs and mollusks stuck to tree trunks and roots. The mangrove swamps are nurseries to nature since two thirds of fish species are born or spend the first part of their lives protected by its roots.

Illustration by José Mario Betancourt

Coral Reefs

The universe of the coral reefs is full of diverse shapes and colors where nothing is what it appears to be. What seems to be a plant can be an animal in truth and the capriciously shaped rocks can turn out to be a colony of tiny animals constructing the reefs. They are the most diverse ecosystems on earth, not only for its number of species but for the kinship distances among them, but it is also a very fragile environment. Coral reefs have 25% of all marine species of the world.

Illustration by José Mario Betancourt

Dry Forest

This forest develops where the tropical winter and summer are distinct. In rainy season, they can be confused with rainforest but in the dry summer season most of the species loose their leaves so that water gets stored in the swelled tree trunks and roots. Many species bloom and the forest is dressed in bright colors amidst what seems to be skeletons of dead trees. Some of the bright flowers usually belong to vines and not to the tree that supports it.

Illustration by Laura Pérez