December 20th, 2012 (InsideCostaRica.com) Research published in the journal Science found that the plants and trees of cloud forests like Monteverde quench their thirst by absorbing water droplets of fog through their leaves. The finding means that cloud forests like Monteverde are especially susceptible to the effects of climate change.
Researchers studied for a year in the mountains of Monteverde, Costa Rica, and found that during months of low rainfall, fog was the main source of hydration for the flora. The researchers found that trees in cloud forests are specially adapted to better absorb water from fog.
“The textbooks tell us that plants get their water from their roots,” one of the researchers said, “and here’s this system where there’s an obvious means that plants can get water from another source: the fog. They’re doing it, but that fog is going away.”
As a result, researchers say that global warming poses a new problem for the conservation of cloud forests.
If the Caribbean Sea continues to warm, as is expected to occur as global temperatures rise, moisture in the atmosphere will take longer to cool enough to condense into fog, and the fog may begin to only appear at elevations higher than the cloud forest.
If this was to happen, and the plant population was not able to migrate fast enough to keep up with the changing location of the fog, it could spell bad news for Costa Rica’s cloud forests.