What is a cloud forest?
CLOUD FORESTS are high-altitude rainforests that harvest water from moist surrounding air. When winds push warm, humid air from lowlands into the mountainside, it’s forced upwards and meets a cooler air layer, causing the moisture to condense into thick clouds. These shroud the mountain, their moisture collecting on leaves then dropping to the ground. Cool, misty conditions and consistent wind mean these forests are often stunted and smothered in dripping wet mosses, ferns and epiphytes. They can support very diverse ecosystems with high endemism levels. Being geographically isolated and facing unique conditions, such as steep elevations and near-constant cloud cover, forest inhabitants often evolve into new species found nowhere else.
Cloud forests are also important because they act like giant sponges, slowly releasing water collected through the year to contribute much more water to catchments than lowland rainforests. This slow release also helps maintain stream flows throughout dry seasons, critically important for a range of habitats and species, from the mountaintops all the way down to the sea.