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 Treating ships’ ballast water: filtration preferable to disinfection
30.07.2015 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt

nachricht Are Fish Getting High on Cocaine?
28.07.2015 | McGill University

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: Quantum Matter Stuck in Unrest

Using ultracold atoms trapped in light crystals, scientists from the MPQ, LMU, and the Weizmann Institute observe a novel state of matter that never thermalizes.

What happens if one mixes cold and hot water? After some initial dynamics, one is left with lukewarm water—the system has thermalized to a new thermal...

Im Focus: On the crest of the wave: Electronics on a time scale shorter than a cycle of light

Physicists from Regensburg and Marburg, Germany have succeeded in taking a slow-motion movie of speeding electrons in a solid driven by a strong light wave. In the process, they have unraveled a novel quantum phenomenon, which will be reported in the forthcoming edition of Nature.

The advent of ever faster electronics featuring clock rates up to the multiple-gigahertz range has revolutionized our day-to-day life. Researchers and...

Im Focus: Superfast fluorescence sets new speed record

Plasmonic device has speed and efficiency to serve optical computers

Researchers have developed an ultrafast light-emitting device that can flip on and off 90 billion times a second and could form the basis of optical computing.

Im Focus: Unlocking the rice immune system

Joint BioEnergy Institute study identifies bacterial protein that is key to protecting rice against bacterial blight

A bacterial signal that when recognized by rice plants enables the plants to resist a devastating blight disease has been identified by a multi-national team...

Im Focus: Smarter window materials can control light and energy

Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin are one step closer to delivering smart windows with a new level of energy efficiency, engineering materials that allow windows to reveal light without transferring heat and, conversely, to block light while allowing heat transmission, as described in two new research papers.

By allowing indoor occupants to more precisely control the energy and sunlight passing through a window, the new materials could significantly reduce costs for...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

3rd Euro Bio-inspired - International Conference and Exhibition on Bio-inspired Materials

23.07.2015 | Event News

Clash of Realities – International Conference on the Art, Technology and Theory of Digital Games

10.07.2015 | Event News

World Conference on Regenerative Medicine in Leipzig: Last chance to submit abstracts until 2 July

25.06.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

Tool making and additive technology exhibition: Fraunhofer IPT at Formnext

31.07.2015 | Trade Fair News

First Siemens-built Thameslink train arrives in London

31.07.2015 | Transportation and Logistics

California 'rain debt' equal to average full year of precipitation

31.07.2015 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>