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Cloud forest facts for kids

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Cloud forest mount kinabalu
Tree ferns in a cloud forest on Mount Kinabalu, Borneo

A cloud forest or fog forest is a (usually) tropical or subtropical, evergreen, montane, moist forest. It has a long-lasting, frequent or seasonal low-level cloud cover, usually at the canopy level.

Cloud forests often have mosses covering the ground and vegetation. Such mossy forests usually develop on the saddles of mountains, where moisture from clouds is held in place.

Their altitude varies from 500 m to 4000 m above sea level. Often there is a particular altitude where the environment is suitable for cloud forest. This has fog at the vegetation level, reducing direct sunlight and loss of the watery mist. Much of the moisture to plants arrives by fog drip, where fog condenses on tree leaves and then drips onto the ground below.

Only 1% of the global woodland consists of cloud forests.

Important areas of cloud forest are in Central and South America, East and Central Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua-New Guinea, and in the Caribbean.

Characteristics

Papillaria Cloudforest-Mt Budawang
Hanging moss in a cool temperate rainforest at Budawang National Park, Australia

In comparison with lower tropical moist forests, cloud forests show a reduced tree stature combined with increased stem density and generally the lower diversity of woody plants. Trees in these regions are generally shorter and more heavily stemmed than in lower-altitude forests in the same regions, often with gnarled trunks and branches, forming dense, compact crowns.

An important feature of cloud forests is that the tree crowns can intercept the cloud moisture, part of which drips to the ground. This fog drip occurs when water droplets from the fog adhere to the needles or leaves of trees or other objects, coalesce into larger drops and then drop to the ground. It can be an important contribution to the hydrologic cycle.

Due to the high water content of the soil, the reduced solar radiation and the low rates of decomposition and mineralization, the soil acidity is very high, with more humus and peat often forming the upper soil layer.

Current situation

In 1970, the original extent of cloud forests on the Earth was around 50 million hectares. Population growth, poverty and uncontrolled land use have contributed to the loss of cloud forests. The 1990 Global Forest Survey found that 1.1% of tropical mountain and highland forests were lost each year, which was higher than in any other tropical forests.

In 2004, an estimated one-third of all cloud forests on the planet were protected at that time.

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