The swamps dominated by raffia palm Raphia taedigera are conspicuous environments in the Tortuguero floodplains and in other wet regions along the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Costa Rica. However, these environments have been little studied and are exposed to numerous threats, most importantly their replacement by agricultural activities or pastureland. In this paper, we describe some applications and uses of the raffia palms and other palms that are common in these flooded swamps. We also describe the efforts that have been made in Costa Rica for the protection or raffia-dominated swamps, through the environmental law frame of the country and the establishment of a protection system based on wilderness areas under different categories of protection. We discuss issues relevant to the future of these environments in the regions where they are distributed.

Keywords: palm uses, Raphia taedigera, palm swamps, wetland conservation, Tortuguero, Costa Rica.