Cloud Forests

If you want to learn about Cloud Forests, this page contains lots of useful information, including how they are affected by human actions.

Cloud forest in Borneo

A cloud forest, also called a fog forest, is a generally tropical or subtropical evergreen montane moist forest characterized by a high incidence of 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.

Characteristics
Typically, there is a relatively small band of altitude in which the atmospheric environment is suitable for cloud forest development. This is characterized by persistent mist or clouds at the vegetation level, resulting in the reduction of direct sunlight and thus of evapotranspiration.

Trees in these regions are generally shorter and more heavily stemmed than in lower altitude forests in the same regions, and the moisture promotes the development of an abundance of vascular epiphytes. This results in abundant moss and fern covering, and frequently flowers such as orchids may be found.

Soils are rich but boggy, with a preponderance of peats and humus. Within cloud forests, much of the precipitation is in the form of fog drip, where fog condenses on tree leaves and then drips onto the ground below.

The definition of cloud forest can be ambiguous, with many countries not using the term (preferring such terms as Afromontane forest and upper montane rain forest, or more localised terms such as the Peruvian yungas, and the laurisilva of the Atlantic Islands), and occasionally subtropical and even temperate forests in which similar meteorological conditions occur are considered to be cloud forests.

Distribution of cloud forests
Tropical and subtropical cloud forests exist in the following countries: Pakistan, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Colombia, Costa Rica, DR Congo, Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, Gabon, Guatemala, Guyana (Pakaraima Mountains), Honduras, India, Indonesia, Jamaica (Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park), Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mexico, Federated States of Micronesia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Oman, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, Venezuela and Vietnam.

Temperate cloud forests
Although far from being universally accepted as true cloud forests, several forests in temperate regions have strong similarities with tropical cloud forests. The term is further confused by occasional reference to cloud forests in tropical countries as "temperate" due to the cooler climate associated with these misty forests.

Distribution of temperate cloud forests: Argentina, Australia - Lamington National Park (Queensland), China - Yunnan Plateau, mountains of southern and eastern China, Colombia - Serranía de Macuira mountain range, in the middle of La Guajira Desert, Dominican Republic - Western provinces such as Barahona, Haiti, Japan - parts of Yakushima Island, New Zealand - parts of Fiordland, Mt Taranaki and Mount Cargill, near Dunedin, Portugal - Azores and Madeira, South Africa, Spain - Canary Islands (laurisilva) and Taiwan.

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