Costa Rica's cloud forest is on the front lines of the climate crisis

Updated: Jun 26, 2020

Recently, I saw the direct effects of the climate crisis on the cloud forests of northern Costa Rica in the Área de Conservación de Guanacaste (ACG).

Cloud forest on the summit of the Cacao Volcano.

Cloud forests occur in high elevation in tropical areas worldwide. They tend to have persistent or frequent cloud cover, cooler temperatures, and are characterized by mossy vegetation. The cloud forest in the ACG is the only ecosystem that contains pieces of forest unaltered by humans due to their isolation. They are now protected within the conserved area, which covers a whopping 2% of Costa Rica.

Having stood through Native American civilizations, Spanish colonization, and the Industrial Revolution, these forests are now being altered by humanity through anthropogenic global warming. As global temperatures rise, clouds form at higher elevations, and the plants and animals that have adapted to constant moisture and cooler temperatures disappear. Simply conserving cloud forests can't stop this phenomenon.

The volcanos in the ACG contain some of the lowest-elevation cloud forests in the world, and the disappearance has been drastic over the years. Images provided by Dr. Daniel Janzen.

This is what the cloud coverage looks like in May 2019, when I went to the Pitilla Biological Station.

From my visit to the base of the Orosí Volcano. In the middle of the rainy season, the tops of these mountains shouldn't be this visible.

Costa Rica contains 4% of the world's biodiversity. That's as much as the United States and Canada combined, and Costa Rica is about the size of West Virginia. The people and government of Costa Rica have realized the biological richness of their country, and they are leading global efforts for conservation and sustainability: Costa Rica has invested in education, has more than 50% forest coverage, currently runs on 99.5% renewable energy, and has a goal to be carbon-free by 2050. However, Costa Rica cannot tackle a global issue like the climate crisis alone.

It's also worth thinking about how our daily actions may contribute to global warming and cause irreversible ecological collapse across the world.

#ClimateCrisis #ClimateChange #Climate #GlobalWarming #CostaRica #Conservation #Biodiversity #Ecology #EcologicalCollapse #CloudForest #TropicalForest #ACG

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