What is a cloud for­est?

Australian Geographic - - Going Wild -

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.

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