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Volcano Cosigüina

Cosigüina Volcano is located 80 kilometers northwest of the city of Chinandega. It stands as a watchtower on the peninsula, which bears the same name, enters the Pacific Ocean enclosing the southern Gulf of Fonseca. This volcano erupted on the 20th to 23rd of January 1835, on the last day there was an explosion with a force of exceptional size that caused the collapse of the structure of the volcano on its own base, leaving a vast hollow over 2 kilometers in diameter and 600 feet deep at the bottom of which formed the current crater lake.

The ancient forests around the volcano were charred, but it was evident the rapid ecological recovery, in 40 years, the forest returned to its former luxuriance and biological wealth, which was preserved almost intact until the middle of this century.

The richness of its flora and fauna attracted the attention of loggers and hunters, whose presence and activity forced the state to declare the area as a wildlife refuge since 1958; in 1983 it was declared as a Nature Reserve and Volcano Cosigüina today is one of the protected areas of Nicaragua as part of the biological corridor of the Gulf of Fonseca, which is also composed of protected areas in Honduras and El Salvador.
The reserve is located in the center of the peninsula, distinguishing two zones: one plain, where agriculture and population is concentrated, and another in the center, where lies the volcanic structures with steep slopes with soils unsuitable for agriculture, accounting for forest resources and wildlife. In this area there are wildlife species such as White Collar Sahin of (Tayassu tajacu) and the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) that practically do not exist elsewhere in the Pacific.

The underground aquifer of the peninsula is small and is isolated from the aquifer known as León-Chinandega, so it depends only on the rainfall in the area and the infiltration of the them, which is largely dependent on the maintenance of coverage plants in the protected area.

The peninsular position makes from this protected area and its buffer zone are poorly connected to the more "continental" land area to the south, ie the other volcanoes of the Andes. However, so far t has not been found any endemicity among the studied species.

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Volcano Cosigüina was originated during the Pleistocene by the superimposition of pyroclastics and lavas, in turn mounted on a base that experienced an uneven lift dipping to the east during the Holocene that can be seen in the strata which form the so-called raised Cosigüina Cliffs (Farallones del cosiguina) of 100 meters high and on the top of them were discovered fossils of foraminifera estimated age of no more than 10,000 years (Incer et al, 2000).

After several centuries of apparent calm the volcano became active on January 20, 1835. According to the American volcanologist Howel Williams, who made the only study a century after the eruption, he considered the eruption as Vesuvian, produced by a sudden effervescence of magma trapped inside the volcano, with such a force that the entire summit was virtually pulverized and blown by the blast, estimating about 10 km3 of material ejected during the event, was considered by Williams as "the most violent eruption in the Americas in historic times", although other studies estimate the ejecta from 3 to 5 km3 . The eruption began with a large column of gas and ashes that darkened the sky three days around the Gulf of Fonseca, as well as northern and western Nicaragua. Then it started several explosive phases with continuous shaking and loud rumblings that were heard throughout Central America and the West Indies, having reached the ashes southern Mexico. At the end of the eruption it was the collapse of the entire structure on its own base (Incer et al, 2000).

Today Cosigüina is considered to be a volcanic building with a shield in the central part of the boiler which is opened, a hole diameter of 2,500 meters and 700 meters depth, in the bottom later emerged the current crater lake. The sides and base of the cone is covered by pyroclastic deposits, which were aerially deposited notably thick during the eruption, as well as colluvial sediments carried by currents to the lowlands (Incer et al, 2000).

The crater lake of Cosigüina occupies the bottom of the boiler that was formed after the eruption and collapse of the volcano in 1835. The water mirror is about 160 meters above the sea level and 700 meters below the top edge of the caldera, with an area of 133 hectares. The greenish blue color of its waters is due to the presence of certain blue green algae that are adapted to the sulfuric waters that are carried by the hydrothermal emissions emanating from inside. The steepness of the rocky walls makes the crater almost inaccessible, although in some places there are trees that grow suspended between cracks and crevices (Incer et al, 2000).

The ancient forests around the volcano were burned during the eruption and buried by volcanic ashes, killing all the wildlife that inhabited it. The same fate had the cattle and the young men who were taking care of two farms near the volcano.

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The explosion of the volcano Cosigüina in the nineteenth century probably deleted populations that may have existed on the peninsula.

According Incer at that time there were two farms in the area, although there are conflicting reports about the existence of human settlements on the peninsula. It has been found some traces of pottery in the area of Huertecita also some inhabitants mention ceramic remains near Apascalí, traces that are slowly uncovered by erosion of the ash and debris from the explosion of the volcano.

There is a report from the year 1541 in the city of El Realejo reporting an incident in the area of "Cigüina" between a Spanish rancher and the indigenous population, probably indicating that the area was populated by both native people and Spaniards since the time of the colony.

INETER volcanological studies indicate that the eruptions of the volcano apparently been cyclical and almost every 200 years or so, causing severe disturbance to the lifestyle of the population of that area.

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Cosigüina Volcano Natural Reserve, Viewpoint of the Gulf of Fonseca is located in the northwestern point of the Pacific coast, bordering the Gulf of Fonseca in the department of Chinandega. It has an area of 12,420 hectares in an altitude range of 100 to 859 meters, where the main ecosystem is the tropical dry forest and beach.

One of the major attractions are the panoramic views of the terrain and coastline from El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua and the crater lake of the volcano.

It is bordered to the northeast by the Gulf of Fonseca and NOT by the Pacific Ocean. Reserve boundaries were defined by altitudinal levels, being from the 200 m in the north and 100 m in the south. Cosigüina Volcano, with a maximum height of 859 meters is located in the extreme north-west of the volcanic chain of the Maribios, approximately in the middle of the peninsula, and in crater houses a lagoon formed after the eruption of 1835 . The volcano is an historic part of the global volcanology and all geographic sector are lessons Quaternary geology and volcanology. All the protected area is located in the municipality of El Viejo, Chinandega.

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According to information gathered in altitudinal transects in the Protected Area Cosigüina Volcano Natural Reserve there are present the following types of plant succession:

a.Succession of low Forest and Open with grass (tripped by deciduous forest). Are small areas with substrate burdensome. Among the most important herbaceous presents the Jaragua grass and 2 species of Jiquelite 'or Indigo (Indigofera sp), the tree components are: Sardinillo (Tecoma stan), chaperno Black (Lonchocarpus minimiflorus), Quebracho (Lysiloma sp), Poro Poro or Berberillo (Cochlospermum vitifolium).

b.Succession of Tropical Deciduous Forest Open with vines (sparsely vegetated lava). Is a vegetation that is under the action of frequent fires, grazing and selective cutting.

The components in order of frequency are: chaperno Black (Lonchocarpus minimiflorus), Poro-Poro (Cochlospermum vitifolium) Molenillo Guácimo (Luhea candida), Guácimo de ternerillo (Calf) (Guazuma ulmifolia), Jiñocuabo (Bursera simarouba) Jocote Jobo (Spondias mombin ), Guanacaste Black (Enterolobium), Burillo (Apeiba tibourbou) Lechecuabo (Sapium macrocarpum), Cecropia (Cecropia peltata), Laurel (Cordia alliodora), rubber (Castilla elastica) and some remnants of Real Cedar (Cedrela odorata), Güiligüiste (Karwinskia calderonii), Mahogany (Swietenia humilis) and Ojoche (Brosimum alicastrum).

The open spaces are covered with plants of Abutilon sp and fickle plants as Papamiel, Ahosmeca, Duckbill, different convolvulus (Ipomoea spp Operculina and Jacquemontia) Leguminales (Mucuna as the Pica-Pica and the Eye of Beef, bean (Phaseolus Teramnus), chickens, Bejuco Pachon, Pringá Moza, they climb trees and often cover much of the lower trees.

c.Bosque Subtropical Transition to High Closed (semi-deciduous forest and gallery).
d.Matorral on lava (submontane shrubland).

On a bedrock of basalt lava is present a similar vegetation composition, but repressed individual trees in longitudinal growth and some new components as Nancite (Byrsonima crassifolia), Tacote White (Lippia cardiostegia) Coralillo (Russelia sarmentosa), and Poro-Poro absence (Cochlospermum sp) and Jiquelites (Indigofera sp).

To the north and northeast the forest are closed because they are less manipulated by man. To the northeast (toward Potosi) the Ojoche (Brosimum alicastrum) is more frequent, presents Tololo (Trichilia glabra), Guayabillo (Terminalia oblongata) and a tree they call Arrayán (Myrcia? Sp). Northbound abundant Tololo (Trichilia glabra), Mountain Grape (Ardisia revoluta), there Guapinol (Hymenea courbaril) and the sotobosque has Chichicastón (Myriocarpa yzabalensis, Urticaceae).

Around the crater rim there are hardened layers of pyroclastics is a strip of between 300 and 400 meters wide with low bearing vegetation, consisting mostly of native species of grasses (Pennisetum sp, sp Stenotaphrum) and Leguminales: Nahuapate (Senna stenocarpa) , Barba de Viejo (Desmodium barabatum) Mozotillo (Desmodium canum) accompanied by some clumps of Jaragua and a species of Polygala sp. Crater f.Bosque

Through binoculars one can see that the trees of Quebracho (Lysiloma spp) dominant vegetation substrate fits the recent lava walls.

Crater lagoon
The lake biota of the lagoon which is housed in the depth of the crater is completely unknown. Its development would be an interesting case to investigate given the short time that has existed since its formation in the last century. The blue-green color of its waters is due to the presence of certain blue-green algae that are adapted to waters that carry sulfate and hydrothermal emissions emanating from inside.

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The abundance of wildlife on the peninsula of Cosigüina and the speed of their disappearance due to excessive hunting was the primary motivation for the declaration of protection in the 1950s, as was one of the reasons that in 1983 it was declared Cosigüina Volcano Natural as a Reserve.

Still It remains on the volcano a representative sample of species of fauna of the dry tropics which houses both in the forest inside the crater and in areas of relatively undisturbed forest or recovering in the ravines and generally in the more inaccessible areas Reserve.

The Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA) performed for the Management Plan (Table No. 3) it was determined the presence of 96 species of terrestrial fauna, distributed in 41 families, both by direct observation and by interviews with residents and cowboys of the zone. Further studies in greater depth by the University of Leon in collaboration with Leader foundation, the Mayor of El Viejo and PROARCA / Costas, that included the study of marine species, determined the existence of a greater number of species, including reports of limpets and cougars in the area of the Tigüilotada.

Table 3. Diversity of terrestrial fauna in Volcano Cosigüina Natural Reserve
BIRDS 20 48
TOTAL 41 101
Source: EER - Task Management Plan Cosigüina Volcano, 2003

Cosigüina is one of the last refuges for wildlife left in the Pacific region where there are still species such as Pavon (Crax rubra) and Pava (Penelope purpurascens) which have become rare or extinct in other forested areas of the Pacific. There are plenty Chachalacas (Ortalis vetula). According to Incer et al (2000), there are 6 species of parrots, the most important and most endangered of them is the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) that live in small flocks in the thicker forest remnants that are still on the slope volcano's western and inside the crater. Among the migratory White-winged Dove is abundant (Zenaida asiatica).

According to available data, there is a greater number of species and families in the order of birds, a total of 48 species of birds from 20 families. The most abundant species are: chocoyo Zapoyol (Brotojeris jugularis), Oriole (Gymnostinops montezuma), Pocoyo (Nyctridomus albicollis), Hawk (Buteo spp) and Guis (Tyrannus verticalis), according to reports from the settlers and cowboys. According to the study of LEADER / PROARCA 2003, apparently there are feeding routes of parrots from the volcano to wetlands, especially in the area of La Tigüilotada, which is the least disturbed by agricultural activities. This aspect is an interesting topic for further research.

We identified 11 endangered species (CITES II), among which are the chicken hawk (Buteo brachyurus), chocoyo Zapoyolito (Brotogeris jugularis), Lora (Amazona farinosa) and the Owl (Tyto alba). We also found two species identified as rare or Endangered Birds in need of protection according to the report of Zoological Biodiversity in Nicaragua, the National Biodiversity Strategy of Nicaragua, 2001, the Chachalaca (Ortalis leucogastra) and Pavon (Crax rubra), the latter is also regulated in international trade (CITES Appendix III).
On the Farallones Islands there are present: Flocks of over 500 species of frigates, Alcatraz, or Widows frigate (Fregata magnificiens) which appear to be permanent and reproductively active over the islets. Also flocks of over 250 individuals reproductively active loggerhead or Masked Gulls (Sula dactylatra in CITES listed species) with individuals of all ages as LEADER & PROARCA-COASTAL (2004) are mixed with S. leucogaster and S. Magnificent.

The fauna of the volcano is varied as befits the tropical dry forests, where there are still important species among mammals like the coyote (Canis latrans dickeyi), the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), lower feline (Wild Cat: Felis wiedii nicaraguae , Ocelot, Felis pardalis), Sahin-collared (Tayassu tajacu), Armadillos (Dasypus novemcintus fenestratus), oso Colmenero (Tamandua tetradactyla), coati (Nasua Nasua) or Pitincue Guardatinaja (Agouti paca), Guatuza (Dasyprocta punctata) raccoon (Procyon lotor), some mustelids. Also reported the occasional presence of the Jaguar (Panthera onca) and Puma (Puma concolor). Some are arboreal animals Mora Squirrel (Sciurus variegatoides) Cucala (Choloepus hoffmanni), Monkey (spider, Ateles geoffroyi, Congo, Alouatta palliata, and Whiteface, Cebus capucinus), of which only lately has seen the spider (Ateles geoffroyi .) There are also rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus) and other rodents. The collar Sahin, has become rare or extinct in other forested areas of the Pacific (Incer et al, 2000).

The Rapid Ecological Assessment identified a total of 24 species belonging to 12 families, the most common are the Felidae, Phyllostomidae and Procynidae. We found that a species is threatened with extinction (CITES II), Bobcat (Felis wiedii) and one regulated for export and trade (CITES III), the zorro espin (Coendu mexicanus).

Reported 23 species, grouped in 7 families. We found that there are 4 endangered species (CITES II), the common boa (Boa constrictor), Oxibelis aeneus, Iguana iguana and Clelia Clelia. Furthermore, we found 3 species regulated for export and trade (CITES III), Microrus nigrocinctus, Crotalus durissus and Agkistrodon bilineatus.

The most common families Iguanidae and Colubridae, including species of Green Iguana (Iguana iguana), Black Iguana (Ctenosausa similis), Socuata (Trimorfodon biscutatus) Lagartijera (Coniophanes Fissidens) and Chocoya (Leptophis ahaetulla). It is also found in abundance rattlesnake (Crotalus durissus), Mica (Spilotes pullatus), Yellowbeard (Botrops asper), Flying (Drymarchon corais), Boa (Boa constrictor) and rat catcher snake (Agkistrodon bilineatus).