Cloud forests risk drying out by 2060

Cloud forests risk drying out by 2060

For the world’s cloud forests, the future is overcast. Some face fiercer storm and flood: they could even lose their unique clouds.

Planet Earth may be about to lose a whole ecosystem: the cloud forests – those species-rich, high altitude rainforests found mostly in Central and South America – could be all but gone in 40 years.

Researchers warn that within 25 years, global warming driven by ever increasing use of fossil fuels could dry up 60-80% of the misty mountain forests of Mexico, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Peru, simply by dispersing the clouds that keep them ever moist, and rich with plant, insect and bird life.

And as the habitat alters, that could be it for the Monarch butterflies that migrate in their millions to the mountains of Mexico, the elfin woods warbler found only in Puerto Rico, and the other creatures that make their homes in forests so rich and wet that even the trees are home to yet more green habitat: ferns, lichens, mosses and other epiphytes nourished by year-round water and water vapour.

And the reason? The clouds will have dispersed, or moved uphill, or simply been blown away as greenhouse gas ratios in the atmosphere continue to grow and temperatures creep ever higher, according to new research in the Public Library of Science journal PLOS One.

“Maria is more extreme in its precipitation than anything else the island has ever seen. I just didn’t expect that it was going to be so much more than anything else that has happened in the last 60 years”

And if nations go on burning ever greater quantities of coal, oil and natural gas to power economic growth, then the cloud and frost that keep the equatorial cloud forests unique homes to living things will have gone.

Nine-tenths of the cloud forests in the Western Hemisphere will have been lost by 2060, if the calculations funded by the US Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service are correct.

Researchers mapped cloud forest across the Western Hemisphere with data collected over the last 60 years and then used climate simulations to see how the habitat would change with time.

They found that indeed some regions would become even more immersed in cloud: this however would only add up to perhaps 1%. For the most part the clouds would thin, the steady supply of moisture would thin, and the forests would begin to change inexorably.

Trees head uphill

This is not the first research to suggest that ever higher temperatures would affect cloud patterns. Scientists using a different approach reported earlier this year that tropical cloud formation of the kind that damps down equatorial temperatures could be at risk.

Other researchers have used historic data to record the steady uphill march of characteristic trees in the Andean forests in response to average global temperature increases of 1°C in the past century.

And yet another team has warned that the increasingly violent winds that arrived in Puerto Rico with Hurricane Maria in 2017 would in any case change the make-up of forest species.

Devastating winds that uproot forest giants at all altitudes won’t be the only problem for the climate-hit forests and the region. Hurricane Maria dumped an unprecedented 1.029 mm of rain in a day on Puerto Rico.

Recurrence likely

A second study from the American Geophysical Union has confirmed that the extreme rainfall that accompanied Maria was not only the worst in the last 60 years, but has become much more likely to happen again.

Thanks to global warming, which increased the capacity of the atmosphere to absorb moisture, such floods are now five times more likely, they write in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

“Maria is more extreme in its precipitation than anything else the island has ever seen,” said David Keellings of the University of Alabama, one of the authors.

“I just didn’t expect that it was going to be so much more than anything else that has happened in the last 60 years.” – Climate News Network

About the Author

Tim Radford, freelance journalistTim Radford is a freelance journalist. He worked for The Guardian for 32 years, becoming (among other things) letters editor, arts editor, literary editor and science editor. He won the Association of British Science Writers award for science writer of the year four times. He served on the UK committee for the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction. He has lectured about science and the media in dozens of British and foreign cities. 

Science that Changed the World: The untold story of the other 1960s revolutionBook by this Author:

Science that Changed the World: The untold story of the other 1960s revolution
by Tim Radford.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon. (Kindle book)

This Article Originally Appeared On Climate News Network

Related Books

List Price: $27.00
Sale Price: $27.00 $18.74 You save: $8.26


List Price: $23.00
Sale Price: $23.00 $17.37 You save: $5.63


List Price: $21.99
Sale Price: $21.99 $14.95 You save: $7.04


enafarzh-CNzh-TWnltlfrdehiiditjakomsfaptruesswsvthtrurvi

LATEST VIDEOS

South Africa: Cities Without Water
by DW Documentaries
By the year 2050, a quarter of the every world’s cities will be facing water shortages. Cape Town is already running…
Pumped Dry: The Global Crisis of Vanishing Groundwater
by USA TODAY
In places around the world, supplies of groundwater are rapidly vanishing. As aquifers decline and wells begin to go…
Why Climate Change Won't Be Solved Easily
by Thom Hartmann Program
Solutions for Climate Change are going to have to be much more radical and much more powerful than the solutions we…
The Counter-Intuitive Solution To Getting People To Care About Climate Change
The Counter-Intuitive Solution To Getting People To Care About Climate Change
by Kamyar Razavi
In a May episode of Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, Bill Nye the Science Guy took a blowtorch to a miniature globe.…
5 Ways To Be A Responsible Wildlife Tourist
5 Ways To Be A Responsible Wildlife Tourist
by Tracie McKinney
Imagine walking through a lush tropical forest. You hear a rustle overhead, and a half-eaten fruit plops onto the…
Climate Change Is Affecting Crop Yields And Reducing Global Food Supplies
Climate Change Is Affecting Crop Yields And Reducing Global Food Supplies
by Deepak Ray
Farmers are used to dealing with weather, but climate change is making it harder by altering temperature and rainfall…
The Arctic Paradox
by Tobias Thorleifsson
Explore Ellesmere Island with Tobias in this talk, as he urges us to protect this arctic environment from the hands of…

LATEST ARTICLES

Refugee Corals Move To Escape Warming Seas
Refugee Corals Move To Escape Warming Seas
by U. Washington
Coral reefs are retreating from equatorial waters and establishing new reefs in more temperate regions, a new study…
How Israel Became A Leader In Water Use In The Middle East
by PBS NewsHour
Over the past few years in Israel, the country's water shortage has become a surplus. Through a combination of…
As Tundras Warm, Microbes Could Make Climate Change Worse
As Tundras Warm, Microbes Could Make Climate Change Worse
by John Toon
Rising temperatures in the tundra of the Earth’s northern latitudes could affect microbial communities in ways likely…
South Africa's Carbon Tax Matters -- For The Economy And Tackling Climate Change
South Africa's Carbon Tax Matters -- For The Economy And Tackling Climate Change
by Mmatlou Kalaba and Heinrich Bohlmann
Carbon tax is likely to be an effective way of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, which lead to climate change and…
With Petition to Congress, 100,000+ People Demand Green New Deal 'That Fixes Our Food System'
With Petition to Congress, 100,000+ People Demand Green New Deal 'That Fixes Our Food System'
by Jessica Corbett
"We can't solve the climate crisis without taking food & ag into account!"
South Africa: Cities Without Water
by DW Documentaries
By the year 2050, a quarter of the every world’s cities will be facing water shortages. Cape Town is already running…
Two Centuries Of Continuous Volcanic Eruption May Have Triggered The End Of The Ice Age
Two Centuries Of Continuous Volcanic Eruption May Have Triggered The End Of The Ice Age
by Joe McConnell
Around 25,000 years ago, during a period known as the Last Glacial Maximum, ice covered much of the world’s landmasses.
We’re On Track To Lose Lots Of Island Conifers
We’re On Track To Lose Lots Of Island Conifers
by Kevin Stacey
Climate change could put many small-island conifers in danger of extinction by 2070, researchers warn.