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Forests of the Clouds
Tropical cloud forests are found on mountains in the tropics, in areas that receive 20 to 400 inches (500 to 10,000 millimeters) of rain a year. For large, inland mountain systems, cloud forests can be found at altitudes from 6,500 to 11,500 feet (2,000 to 3,500 meters). In exceptionally humid equatorial conditions, a cloud forest zone may develop on small and steep island mountains at elevations as low as 500 meters (1,600 feet).

The persistent clouds affect the vegetation by reducing sunlight, wetting tree canopies, and suppressing evapotranspiration. Leaves and branches draw cloud moisture, which drips to the ground and adds water to the hydrological system. Cloud forests protect watersheds by maintaining ground cover, minimizing soil erosion, and providing a regular and controlled supply of water to communities downstream.

Cloud forest soil is wet and often waterlogged, with humus and peat that make it highly organic. The forests have a profusion of epiphytes, including lichens and filmy ferns. They are exceptionally important habitats for endemic and other threatened species of flora and fauna, including many important tree species and plants such as tree ferns (Cyatheaceae) and orchids (Orchidaceae). More than a thousand species of orchids have been found in the cloud forests of Peru alone.

Most of the species in cloud forests are believed to be still unknown to science.


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Many cloud forests serve as refuges for endangered species, which are being marginalized by the transformation and destruction of ecosystems at lower elevations. Large numbers of bird species and mammals, such as the spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus) and howler monkeys (Alouatta spp.), are dependent on cloud forest habitat for their survival.

Two significant areas for conservation of cloud forest environments are the Manu Cloud Forest and the Chachapoyas region.

Located within the Manu BioSphere Reserve of south eastern Peru significant areas of cloud forest are being protected by the conservation organization Selva Sur. Research for Selva Sur is carried out from their research center Cock-of-the-Rock, named after Peru's National Bird.

Selva Sur also owns and protects 12,500 acres of the uniquely-intact Primary Cloud Forest of this spectacular valley.
The reserve protects the world's biggest display ground of the blazing red Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, two species of Quetzales, Mountain Toucans, Amazonian Umbrellabirds, myrid species of tanagers and hummingbirds, orchids (including two species new for science first discovered by Selva Sur researchers), Tree Ferns, cascading waterfalls, Torrent Ducks, Andean Dippers, and much more.

In addition to the obviously spectacular Cocks-of-the-Rock, this luxuriant valley preserve protects healthy populations of Woolly Monkeys and the endangered Spectacled Bears, the two most impressive mammals of Andean forests.

The diversity of other large, colorful birds, such as Mountain Toucan, Quetzals, and Motmots, as well as smaller, but even more spectacular, iridescent tanagers and hummingbirds, makes this valley the birdwatcher's dream. Finally, the butterfly and flower diversity is fantastic and nearly entirely different from the lowland rain forest.

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The Chachapoyas region of north-central Peru, with numerous ruins of the pre-Inca Chachapoyas people known as "the Cloud People", remains a remote cloud forest and lowland area. With the now ever-expanding commercialization of the Chachapoyas Region, support must be given to conservation organizations to protect a fragile environment.

   Related Info:
   ...Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge

Amazon Lodges of Peru
Web site, travel itinerary to Manu Cloud Forest, and pricing:

Lodge.... Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge

Overland Exploration.... the BioTrip to Manu

Camping.... Manu Tented Camp

Travel Journal to the Cloud Forests of Chachapoyas visit:
Expedition Photography's Expedition to Shubet Mountain

Travel Journal to the Cloud Forests of Manu
and the Black Lagoon visit:

Expedition Photography's in search of the Black Lagoon travel resource directory...

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