Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Felling trees has sky-high price

19.10.2001


Costa Rica’s lush mountain tops are loosing their mists.
© UAH


Cloud formations change with deforestation.


Deforestation is drying out cloud forests.

"It drips," says ecologist Robert Lawton, describing the Costa Rican cloud forest, "and it’s plastered with plants of all sizes climbing over each other. Stand still for long and they’re growing on you."

Now the lush life he describes may be threatened. Satellite pictures show that deforestation at the foot of western Costa Rican mountains is drying out swirling summit mists.



When warm, wet tradewinds blowing off the Caribbean are forced upwards by the mountains, they cool and condense into a damp fog. This supports 7358 square kilometers of forest at heights above 1,500 metres.

Where agriculture has eroded lowland forests, the fluffy cumulus clouds that feed the peaks’ forests no longer form, Lawton, of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and colleagues report1. Water evaporating between the trees normally lowers the air temperature. In its absence, air is warmer and has to be lifted higher before it cools into mist.

"It’s extremely worrying," says conservationist Philip Bubb of the Tropical Montane Cloud Forest Initiative in Cambridge, UK. The findings may explain why the base of the cloud forest has begun to dry out, killing many species of frogs and toads.

If lost, the forests would take more unique plants and animals with them. The peaks are isolated nests of biodiversity: "species of orchids might be found on only one mountain top," says Bubb. Cloud forests also channel clean, fresh drinking water to people in towns below.

Tropical cloud forests on the mountain ranges of Central and South America, Africa and Asia could face a similar fate. Trees are being cleared apace in these countries to make plantations and animal pasture. Most of lowland Costa Rica has already been cleared.

The sky’s the limit

Lawton teamed up with atmospheric scientists to photograph cumulus clouds across Costa Rica and neighbouring Nicaragua using the Landsat and Geostationary Environmental Satellite (GEOS). Atmospheric models confirm that clouds which form above a treeless landscape form at a greater height than those over forest.

Declining species and mist in the Costa Rican rainforest have previously been attributed to climate change warming air over the sea, explains Alan Pounds of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve and Tropical Science Center in Costa Rica2,3. Deforestation complements this idea, he thinks. Removing a buffer of trees may exacerbate global warming’s effects.

The satellite findings show that conservation plans must now take into account the entire landscape: "You can’t create a series of parks and expect biodiversity to be preserved," says Pounds.


References
  1. Lawton, R. O., Nair, U. S., Pielke, R. A. & Welch, R.M. Climatic impact of tropical lowland deforestation on nearby montane cloud forests. Science, 294, 584 - 587, (2001).

  2. Pounds, J. A., Fogden, M. P. L. & NCampbell, J.H. Biological response to climate change on a tropical mountain. Nature, 398, 611 - 615, (1999).

  3. Still, C. J., Foster, P. N. & Schneider, S. H. Simulating the effects of climate change on tropical montane cloud forests. Nature, 398, 608 - 610, (1999).

HELEN PEARSON | Nature News Service
Further information:
http://www.nature.com/nsu/011025/011025-2.html
http://www.nature.com/nsu/

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Listening in: Acoustic monitoring devices detect illegal hunting and logging
14.12.2017 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.

nachricht How fires are changing the tundra’s face
12.12.2017 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

One in 5 materials chemistry papers may be wrong, study suggests

15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>