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The Savegre

A Model of Sustainability


Aggie Veld
Department of Biology
Olivet Nazarene University
Emilie R. Janes
Department of Biology
Olivet Nazarene University


This case study takes the reader deep into the cloud forest of San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica.  While searching for a destination for the best spring break ever, five students in an ecology class happen upon a story of sustainability that inspires them to visit a tropical resort devoted to ecotourism. Shortly after their arrival in the Savegre River Valley, they learn how the area became a model of sustainability from a chance encounter with the son of one of the original developers of the area. They learn about the ecohistory of Costa Rica, the importance of biodiversity and how it is threatened, nutrient cycles in the montane cloud forest, and the power of education in helping indigenous people maintain the ecosystems of their land. They also learn how successful and sustainable ecotourism involves the balancing of environmental suitability, economic viability, and social acceptability. The case is suitable for use in high school biology, ecology, and environmental science courses, as well as similar lower-division undergraduate science courses.


  • Give examples of components that make the ecology of tropical montane cloud forests unique.
  • Explain why Costa Rica is high in biodiversity.
  • State the first law of ecology: “everything is connected.”
  • List threats to biodiversity.
  • Define ecotourism and list examples.
  • Discuss reasons why ecotourism may or may not work.
  • Propose options to broaden the definition of sustainability.
  • Differentiate between social acceptability, economic viability, and environmental suitability, and understand the different roles they play in reaching a sustainable system.


Savegre; sustainability; environmental suitability; economic viability; quetzal; Costa Rica; Chacón; Finkenbinder; laws of ecology; ecotourism

Topical Areas


Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division


PDF, PowerPoint

Type / Methods

Discussion, Interrupted



Subject Headings

Biology (General)  |   Ecology  |   Environmental Science  |  

Date Posted


Teaching Notes

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Teaching notes are intended to help teachers select and adopt a case. They typically include a summary of the case, teaching objectives, information about the intended audience, details about how the case may be taught, and a list of references and resources.

Supplemental Materials

The PowerPoint presentation below is shown in class (see teaching notes).

  savegre.pptx (~ 5.2 MB)

Answer Key

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The following video(s) are recommended for use in association with this case study.

  • Costa Rican Quest: Cloud Forest in Savegre River Valley
    This video gives a good overview of the cloud forests near the Quetzal Education Research Center and Savegre Mountain Hotel in San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica. Running time: 8:42 min. Produced by One Biota Network, 2016.