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 Robotic fish to replace animal testing
17.06.2019 | Otto-von-Guericke-Universität Magdeburg

nachricht Marine oil snow
12.06.2019 | University of Delaware

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: The hidden structure of the periodic system

The well-known representation of chemical elements is just one example of how objects can be arranged and classified

The periodic table of elements that most chemistry books depict is only one special case. This tabular overview of the chemical elements, which goes back to...

Im Focus: MPSD team discovers light-induced ferroelectricity in strontium titanate

Light can be used not only to measure materials’ properties, but also to change them. Especially interesting are those cases in which the function of a material can be modified, such as its ability to conduct electricity or to store information in its magnetic state. A team led by Andrea Cavalleri from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg used terahertz frequency light pulses to transform a non-ferroelectric material into a ferroelectric one.

Ferroelectricity is a state in which the constituent lattice “looks” in one specific direction, forming a macroscopic electrical polarisation. The ability to...

Im Focus: Determining the Earth’s gravity field more accurately than ever before

Researchers at TU Graz calculate the most accurate gravity field determination of the Earth using 1.16 billion satellite measurements. This yields valuable knowledge for climate research.

The Earth’s gravity fluctuates from place to place. Geodesists use this phenomenon to observe geodynamic and climatological processes. Using...

Im Focus: Tube anemone has the largest animal mitochondrial genome ever sequenced

Discovery by Brazilian and US researchers could change the classification of two species, which appear more akin to jellyfish than was thought.

The tube anemone Isarachnanthus nocturnus is only 15 cm long but has the largest mitochondrial genome of any animal sequenced to date, with 80,923 base pairs....

Im Focus: Tiny light box opens new doors into the nanoworld

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have discovered a completely new way of capturing, amplifying and linking light to matter at the nanolevel. Using a tiny box, built from stacked atomically thin material, they have succeeded in creating a type of feedback loop in which light and matter become one. The discovery, which was recently published in Nature Nanotechnology, opens up new possibilities in the world of nanophotonics.

Photonics is concerned with various means of using light. Fibre-optic communication is an example of photonics, as is the technology behind photodetectors and...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Novel communications architecture for future ultra-high speed wireless networks

17.06.2019 | Information Technology

Climate Change in West Africa

17.06.2019 | Earth Sciences

Robotic fish to replace animal testing

17.06.2019 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>