The magic of the Cloud Forest | ©Brian Hampson (Bellavista, Ecuador)
Cloud forests or tropical montane cloud forests, a type of rainforest, occur on high mountains in the tropics, generally between 2,000 and 3,500 meters, and experience very different environmental conditions .
Cloud forest are composed of forest ecosystems of distinctive floristic and structural form. As one ascends in elevation, the hot steamy lowlands are left behind and several distinct vegetation zones occur. The height of the trees is much lower, and in fact, the trees usually appear crooked and stunted, due to exposure to wind, sun, and cold. Cloud forests are so named because they are often shrouded in mist and fog. The high moisture level and cool year-round temperatures foster plant communities rich in mosses, ferns, and epiphytes, a habitat that scientists are beginning to study and catalog with increasing interest.
Cloud forests are high on the list of the worlds most threatened ecosystems. Much of their value is related to their unique characteristics of biodiversity and endemism and the functions that they provide .
Major areas in the world where cloud forests are still found include southern Mexico, Central America, and all countries in tropical South America. On the other side of the globe, cloud forests can still be found in SE Asia, New Guinea, tropical Africa, Madagascar, and some islands in the South Pacific .