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 Dune ecosystem modelling
23.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht Understanding animal social networks can aid wildlife conservation
23.06.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

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: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>