Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Little known facts about trees: When trees "drink" fog

Cloud Forest Trees Drink From the Fog

by Sean Treacy

If Costa Rican trees could speak, perhaps they'd ask for a cool glass of fog. A number of plant species in the country's tropical cloud forests quench their thirst by slurping up fog droplets through their leaves, a new study shows. The forests are already in danger from the changing climate, and the finding raises concerns that they're even more fragile than thought, reports Science.
For 9 months of the year, the lush, mountainside cloud forest of Monteverde in Costa Rica gets plenty of rain to support its roughly 2000 plant species. During the other 3 months, February through April, precipitation is scarce. But even during this dry spell, some of the region's forests average 13 hours of fog each day from moisture that drifts in from the Caribbean Sea and condenses under the forest's canopy, forming milky-white threads that weave through the greenery.
Monteverde's cloud forest is also home to a wealth of amphibians and migratory birds. But in 1989, conservationists were alarmed when a renowned bright-orange amphibian called the golden toad went extinct. Whether the animal died out because of climate change has been a source of debate. But its demise served as a bad omen because a cascade of other amphibians, which are especially sensitive to moisture changes and diseases spread by climate change, disappeared from Monteverde in the following years.

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