La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano Restaurants
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Arenal Volcano spews vapor
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La Fortuna News

La Fortuna, Costa Rica - This country's modern-day Big Bang came in 1968 when its only constantly active volcano, Arenal, woke up from a 400-year geologic nap with a huge eruption that not only displaced thousands of villagers circling the mountain but also disrupted the lives of countless species of flora and fauna. Both Man and all other living things were probably already well adapted to the mobile lifestyle.

Ironically, the Arenal park includes an artificial ecosystem, which turns out to be a good thing (if you ignore the fact that it probably displaced a natural pre-existing ecosystem). Next to the volcano is a dam, built in 1983, which created Lake Arenal, covering an area of almost 90 square kilometers.

The hydraulic energy harnessed from the lake and its surrounding rivers accounts for almost 40 percent of Costa Rica's energy production.

While the dam flooded what was previously the town of Arenal, it also created new life: there are more than 35 species of zooplankton, 14 species of macrophytes and 37 species of fish, predominantly cichlids and livebearers.

At nearby Arenal Observatory Lodge, scientists come from the Smithsonian Institute, the Earthwatch Institute, the Organization of Tropical Studies, the University of California and other institutions to take advantage of the lodge's unique observatory location very close to the live volcano. They study details of the '68 eruption, species regeneration in volcanically affected areas and other effects of volcanic activity on local biology. The cynic in me thinks such studies are motivated by the desire to make sure that the tourism infrastructure is not disrupted by the next big one. I would like to see them also examine the environmental effect of increased traffic flow (the increased flow of everything) generated by the influx of tourists.