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Cloud Forest in Mexico
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Cloud Forest in Mexico

July 19, 2010
Mature cloud forests at the La Cortadura Ecological Reserve, located in the Municipality of Coatepec, Veracruz, in east-central Mexico. Cloud forests are rapidly being logged, burned and paved into new land uses--particularly pasture, making them vulnerable to climate change. The protected areas of the La Cortadura Reserve give researchers an opportunity to study the ecohydrological functioning of mature cloud forests, and how these functions are affected by land-use change.

More about this Image A research team, led by Heidi Asbjornsen of Iowa State University, is helping identify the impacts of environmental changes on cloud forests--tropical mountain forests that are perpetually cloaked in clouds and fog. These forests, which currently account for no more than 2.5 percent of all tropical forests, harbor many species found nowhere else on Earth. In addition, they capture large volumes of water that would not otherwise fall as rain.

But despite the ecological importance of cloud forests, these rare habitats are rapidly being logged, burned and paved into new land uses, and remain vulnerable to climate change. Asbjornsen's team is conducting fieldwork, lab work and computer modeling designed to identify the impact of these environmental changes on the water budgets of cloud forests.

The team's work includes quantifying how much rain is captured by cloud forests, determining how these quantities change as cloud forests are converted for other land uses, and identifying flow paths followed by water through cloud forests. By providing their results to stakeholders and decision-makers, the team is promoting the conservation of cloud forests. [The study is supported by the National Science Foundation's Division of Environmental Biology (DEB 07-46179) and Office of International Science and Engineering.) (Date of Image: 2008)


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