Cloud Forests Under Threat From Climate Change

The threat of climate change is ominously looming over many mountain ecosystems with the potential to destroy them and wipe out any species living in them. It now seems that the unique cloud forests distributed across the planet are most at risk as climate change alters atmospheric currents.

Cloud forests can be found perched upon mountains and get their name from the clouds which surround them and provide them with the moisture to survive. However new research suggests that many of the forests plant species may not survive past the year 2080 as their mountainous location prevents them from escaping the impacts of climate change.

The research published in the journal Biological Conservation focused upon the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area in Queensland. Researchers studied 19 plant species found at 1,000 meters above sea level and modelled three climate change scenarios on them.

What they found was disturbing. In the area they studied by 2040 the climate niche for the endemic species would decline anywhere between 17% and 100%. Most worryingly under any emissions scenario there will be no suitable habitat for 84% of species studied by 2080. Add to that even under the conservative scenario a survivable climate will no longer exist by 2080 for nearly half the plants.

The findings may have important implications as lead researcher Dr. Craig Costion points out; “They already live on mountain tops, they have no other place to go. Our study indicates that that the current climate on Queensland’s mountaintops will virtually disappear. What we don’t know is if these plants can adapt.”

Tropical mountains are rich in biodiversity and contain unique and rare species. This study may hold implications for cloud forests across the globe as it becomes evident that current conservation plans may not be sufficient to protect them in the future. Threats such as climate change pose a significant risk and managing for this requires better information.

Featured Image by Rob Cahill Alta Verapaz

Costion, C., Simpson, L., Pert, P., Carlsen, M., Kress, W., Crayn, D. (2015). Will Tropical Mountaintop Plant Species Survive Climate Change? Identifying Key Knowledge Gaps Using Species Distribution Modelling in Australia. Biological Conservation191, 322-330.

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Emily Stewart

Owner of Inspire Wildlife http://www.inspirewildlife.com/ A blog designed to promote the positive stories within wildlife conservation. Follow me on Twitter https://twitter.com/Emilystewart991 https://twitter.com/inspirewildlife
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