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1 . Costa Rica     Costa Rica
The Pacific coastline of both Costa Rica and Panama is strongly affected by extremes of water temperature associated with warm El Niño (~33°C) events and more frequent cool upwelling episodes (~15°C). These restrict offshore reef development in many areas, while terrestrial runoff greatly restricts reef development on mainland coasts. In general, reef development is sporadic and mostly at point locations around offshore islands. Most reefs in this region consist of shallow (less than 10 meters) sub-tidal Pocillopora banks bound together with calcareous algae, while Porites lobata is also a major reef builder in Costa Rica. Species diversity is low, but 23 species of hermatypic corals have been recorded on the Pacific side of Panama, and 18 in Costa Rica. Despite their simple community structure and low diversity, coral cover on these small reefs can be very high, reaching over 90 percent on healthy reefs. Cores through these reefs have shown carbonate accretions up to 10-12 meters thick, suggesting vertical accretion rates similar to many reefs in the Indo-Pacific. The Pacific reefs were severely impacted by the 1982-83 El Niño event, which drove mass bleaching and mortality in all areas. In Costa Rica recovery has generally been good and, despite repeated bleaching in 1992 and 1997-98, coral cover remains high in most areas. By contrast, recovery on many reefs in Panama has not been great.

The Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is dominated by wide areas of alluvial sediments and there are considerable riverine inputs. These conditions greatly inhibit the development of coral reefs, although there are fringing communities at Limón (northwest of Isla Uvita) and Punta Cahuita towards the south. Less developed coral communities are also found from Puerto Viejo to Punta Mona.

The Caribbean coastlines lie well south of the main westward flow of the Caribbean Current. This current sets up two counter-clockwise eddies, the first producing eastward currents flowing from southern Costa Rica and around the Golfo de los Mosquitos, and the second sweeping east along the San Blas islands. This area also lies to the south of the main Caribbean hurricane belt and there has only been one record of a hurricane along the Panama coast in the last 120 years.
Source: Spalding, M.D., C. Ravilious and E.P. Green , 2001 , World Atlas of Coral Reefs . Prepared at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre. University of California Press,Berkeley,USA.421p. (See Document)

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