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.