WHAT IS A CLOUD FOREST?
A Cloud Forest is a generally a tropical or subtropical, evergreen, montane, moist forest, characterised by a persistent, frequent or seasonal low-level cloud cover (usually at the canopy level). Cloud Forests often exhibit an abundance of mosses covering the ground and vegetation, in which case they are also referred to as mossy forests. Mossy forests usually develop on the saddles of mountains, where moisture introduced by settling clouds is more effectively retained.
Tropical Montane Cloud Forests are not as species-rich as Tropical Lowland Forests, but they provide the habitat for many species found nowhere else, for example, orchids and insectivorous plants which are restricted to only these mountains.
The endemism in animals is also very high. One of the best-known Cloud Forest mammals is the mountain gorilla. Many of those endemic animals have important functions, such as seed dispersal and forest dynamics in these ecosystems.
In 1970, the original extent of Cloud Forests on the Earth was around 50 million hectares. Population growth, poverty and uncontrolled land use have contributed to the loss of cloud forests. The 1990 Global Forest Survey found that 1.1% of tropical mountain and highland forests were lost each year, which was higher than in any other tropical forests. Significant areas have been converted to plantations, or for use in agriculture and pasture. Crops widely grown in Montane Cloud Forest zones include tea and coffee.
In 2004, an estimated one-third of all cloud forests on the planet were classed as protected.