Costa Rica’s Endangered Cloud Forests
A cloud forest is generally defined as a tropical forest distinguished by a relentless, recurrent or seasonally low-level cloud cover; they are also referred to as mossy forests. Monteverde’s cloud forests form when the air flows from the northeast across the warm Caribbean waters, driving moist air upwards to cooler elevations, causing thick fog or clouds to hang in the canopy. When the fog just hangs around, dew collects on surfaces and then falls on the flora below, it is called horizontal precipitation.
The canopy acts like an umbrella, blocking most of the sun light, which causes a slower evaporation and thus helps to promote plants that grow upon other plants or epiphytes. The concentration of different plant species found in one location is higher than most other locations.
The biggest threat beside mankind to the extinction of these unique areas is the El Niño. This happens every 2-7 years. Scientists can’t predict on how the weather patterns will transform the environment. Computer generated models predict that the hydrologic cycle could potentially dry up.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve was recognized in 1972, and now extends to over thirty-five thousand acres. It is home to all six species of wild cats – jaguars, jaguarondis, margays, ocelots, oncillas, and pumas, as well to the endangered resplendent quetzal and three-wattled bellbird. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve has over 8 miles of trails for visitors to discover.
Santa Elena Cloud Forest was opened in 1992, by a group of Canadian student volunteers. The forest cover 766 acres and has over 7.5 miles of trails that stretch out over four unique trails. This cloud forest is more difficult to hike than the Monteverde Cloud Forest. The shortest trail, named The Youth Challenge Trail, which is the shortest, just forty-five minutes, offers a lookout tower. On a clear day you can see five of Costa Rica’s volcanoes: Arenal Volcano, Miravalles, Poas Volcano, Rincon de la Vieja, and Tenorio.