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The Disappearing Clouds in a Costa Rican Cloud Forest

The impact of global climate change is causing the famed Costa Rican cloud forest to become cloudless

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Evidence continues to grow everyday that global climate change is not only making the planet hotter, but it is also disrupting various ecosystems all over the world. In the U.S., Maine is grappling with the issues of ocean acidification and its effect on lobsters, which the state is so famous for. In the Tileran Mountains of northern Costa Rica, the Monteverde cloud forest’s clouds are disappearing.

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Climate Change Will Wipe Out Two-Thirds of Mexico's Cloud Forests by 2080

If left unprotected, the study’s authors predict, 99 percent of Mexico’s cloud forests will be gone.


High in the mountains of nations like Mexico and Costa Rica, huge cloud banks blanket vast stretches of forest. Mosses and ferns, frog and toads, Monarch butterflies and rare birds thrive in these cool, wet areas. Cloud forests are rare: They make up less than 3 percent of all tropical forests [PDF]. They’re also particularly vulnerable to climate change, which means they may all but disappear during this century.

In Mexico, rising temperatures could eliminate 68 percent of the country’s cloud forest by 2080, according to a new study in Nature Climate Change. Warmer temperatures mean that clouds start forming higher up. The stretches of mountain where cloud forests develop start drying out, and the species that have adapted to live there begin to die off or migrate. The plants that live in the forests tend to grow slowly, too, and spread their seeds only a short distance, so it’s unlikely they’ll be able to migrate to new cloud-covered stretches, if those even exist.

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