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Nearly one fifth of Nicaragua is designated as [[Protected areas of Nicaragua|protected areas]] like national parks, nature reserves, and biological reserves. The country had a 2019 [[Forest Landscape Integrity Index]] mean score of 3.63/10, ranking it 146<sup>th</sup> globally out of 172 countries.<ref name="FLII-Supplementary">{{cite journal|last1=Grantham|first1=H. S.|last2=Duncan|first2=A.|last3=Evans|first3=T. D.|last4=Jones|first4=K. R.|last5=Beyer|first5=H. L.|last6=Schuster|first6=R.|last7=Walston|first7=J.|last8=Ray|first8=J. C.|last9=Robinson|first9=J. G.|last10=Callow|first10=M.|last11=Clements|first11=T.|last12=Costa|first12=H. M.|last13=DeGemmis|first13=A.|last14=Elsen|first14=P. R.|last15=Ervin|first15=J.|last16=Franco|first16=P.|last17=Goldman|first17=E.|last18=Goetz|first18=S.|last19=Hansen|first19=A.|last20=Hofsvang|first20=E.|last21=Jantz|first21=P.|last22=Jupiter|first22=S.|last23=Kang|first23=A.|last24=Langhammer|first24=P.|last25=Laurance|first25=W. F.|last26=Lieberman|first26=S.|last27=Linkie|first27=M.|last28=Malhi|first28=Y.|last29=Maxwell|first29=S.|last30=Mendez|first30=M.|last31=Mittermeier|first31=R.|last32=Murray|first32=N. J.|last33=Possingham|first33=H.|last34=Radachowsky|first34=J.|last35=Saatchi|first35=S.|last36=Samper|first36=C.|last37=Silverman|first37=J.|last38=Shapiro|first38=A.|last39=Strassburg|first39=B.|last40=Stevens|first40=T.|last41=Stokes|first41=E.|last42=Taylor|first42=R.|last43=Tear|first43=T.|last44=Tizard|first44=R.|last45=Venter|first45=O.|last46=Visconti|first46=P.|last47=Wang|first47=S.|last48=Watson|first48=J. E. M.|display-authors=1|title=Anthropogenic modification of forests means only 40% of remaining forests have high ecosystem integrity - Supplementary Material|journal=Nature Communications|volume=11|issue=1|year=2020|page=5978|issn=2041-1723|doi=10.1038/s41467-020-19493-3|pmid=33293507|pmc=7723057|doi-access=free}}</ref> [[Geophysical]]ly, Nicaragua is surrounded by the [[Caribbean Plate]], an [[oceanic crust|oceanic]] [[tectonic plate]] underlying Central America and the [[Cocos Plate]]. Since Central America is a major [[subduction]] zone, Nicaragua hosts most of the [[Central American Volcanic Arc]].
 
==== Pacific lowlands ====
[[File:Concepción from Maderas (landscape).jpg|thumb|Nicaragua is known as the land of lakes and volcanoes; pictured is [[Concepción (volcano)|Concepción volcano]], as seen from [[Maderas|Maderas volcano]].]]
In the west of the country, these lowlands consist of a broad, hot, fertile plain. Punctuating this plain are several large volcanoes of the [[Cordillera Los Maribios]] mountain range, including [[Mombacho]] just outside Granada, and [[Momotombo]] near León. The lowland area runs from the [[Gulf of Fonseca]] to Nicaragua's Pacific border with Costa Rica south of [[Lake Nicaragua]]. Lake Nicaragua is the largest freshwater lake in Central America (20th largest in the world),<ref>{{cite news|title=Large Lakes of the World|url=http://www.factmonster.com/ipka/A0001777.html|access-date=2007-05-25|work=factmonster.com}}</ref> and is home to some of the world's rare freshwater sharks ([[bull shark|Nicaraguan shark]]).<ref>{{cite news|work=nature.org|title=The Nature Conservancy in Nicaragua|url=http://www.nature.org/wherewework/centralamerica/nicaragua/|access-date=2007-05-25|archive-url=https://web.archive.org/web/20070405074947/http://www.nature.org/wherewework/centralamerica/nicaragua/|archive-date=2007-04-05|url-status=dead}}</ref> The Pacific lowlands region is the most populous, with over half of the nation's population.
In addition to its beach and resort communities, the Pacific lowlands contains most of Nicaragua's Spanish colonial architecture and artifacts. Cities such as León and [[Granada, Nicaragua|Granada]] abound in colonial architecture; founded in 1524, Granada is the oldest colonial city in the Americas.<ref>{{cite news|last=White|first=RL|title=Pittsburghers find once war-ravaged country is a good place to invest|date=2004-08-24|url=http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/04237/366377.stm|work=Post Gazette|access-date=2007-05-09}}</ref>
 
==== North central highlands ====
[[File:Cañonsomoto.JPG|thumb|The [[Somoto Canyon National Monument]] is located in [[Somoto]] in the [[Madriz Department]] in Northern Nicaragua.]]
 
Bird life in the forests of the central region includes [[resplendent quetzal]]s, [[lesser goldfinch|goldfinches]], [[hummingbird]]s, [[jay]]s and [[emerald toucanet|toucanets]].
 
==== Caribbean lowlands ====
This large [[rainforest]] region is irrigated by several large rivers and is sparsely populated. The area has 57% of the territory of the nation and most of its mineral resources. It has been heavily exploited, but much natural diversity remains. The [[Coco River|Rio Coco]] is the largest river in Central America; it forms the border with Honduras. The Caribbean coastline is much more sinuous than its generally straight Pacific counterpart; lagoons and deltas make it very irregular.{{citation needed|date=November 2014}}
 
Traditional street food snacks found in Nicaragua include "quesillo", a thick tortilla with soft cheese and cream, "tajadas", deep-fried plantain chips, "maduros", sautéed ripe plantain, and "fresco", fresh juices such as hibiscus and tamarind commonly served in a plastic bag with a straw.<ref>{{cite web|last1=Gleeson|first1=Bridget|title=How to eat like a Nicaraguan|url=https://www.lonelyplanet.com/nicaragua/travel-tips-and-articles/how-to-eat-like-a-nicaraguan/40625c8c-8a11-5710-a052-1479d276db80|website=Lonely Planet|access-date=27 May 2018|language=en|date=15 April 2016}}</ref>
 
Nicaraguans have been known to eat [[guinea pig]]s,<ref>{{Cite book|url=https://books.google.com/books?id=gpEjzy6njwwC&q=nicaragua+guinea+pig|title=Nicaragua|last=Gritzner|first=Charles F.|date=2010|publisher=Infobase Publishing|isbn=9781604136197|language=en}}</ref> known as ''cuy''.<nowiki/> Tapirs, iguanas, turtle eggs, armadillos and boas are also sometimes eaten, but because of extinction threats to these wild creatures, there are efforts to curb this custom.<ref name="NICA" />
 
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