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3 The protected areas and biosphere reserves in the cloud forest.

1. The world's protected cloud forests

1.1 General considerations

Cloud forests are of great importance in the global water cycle and are considered to be the ecosystem most at risk from human pressure and agricultural expansion. Several countries have committed themselves to protecting these systems, although the wide range of forms of legal protection does not always ensure satisfactory regulation. The forms of protection range from strictly protected areas to simple forest reserves, national parks and nature reserves, all managed differently from one country to another. These include areas in the zone known as the Tierra fria ("cold land") in Central America and in the ceja in South America, in the highest peaks of the Caribbean Islands and the Afromontane refugia of East Africa, and in southeast Asia, from the Himalayas, via Malaysia, to New Guinea.

Moreover, some protected areas of rainforest, especially in the mountainous areas of the Americas, also end up with a band of cloud forest (see the section dealing with protected rainforest areas).

1.2 Parks and protected areas

In the New World tropics alone, there are more than 100 protected areas containing some cloud forest. The largest are the Isodoro Secure National Park in Bolivia (3,000,000 ac [1,200,000 ha]), the Pico de Neblina National Park in Brazil (5,400,000 ac [2,200,000 ha]), Cayambe-Coca in Ecuador (1,000,000 ac [400,000 ha]), the Darien National Park in Panama (1,500,000 ac [600,000 ha]), areas within the Peruvian national parks of Manu (3,700,000 ac [1,500,000 ha]) and Huascaran (85,000 ac [34,000 ha]), and the Venezuelan national parks of Canaima (7,400,000 ac [3,000,000 ha]) and Sierra de Neblina (3,360,000 ac [1,360,000 ha]). In the African tropics, the largest protected areas are the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda (370,000 ac [150,000 ha]) and Ruwenzori National Park in Uganda (54,000 ac [22,000 ha]), Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo (1,900,000 ac [780,000 ha]) and Kilimanjaro National Park in Tanzania (198,000 ac [80,000 ha]).

The largest areas of protected montane forest in the Indo-Malaysian region are in Indonesia. The largest mountain chain contains large areas of intact montane rainforest, represented by the Gunung Leusur National Park in Sumatra (1,900,000 ac [790,000 ha]) and the national parks of Sungai Mentarang and Sungai Kayan in Kalimantan (3,900,000 ac [1,600,000 ha]) and Pulong Tau in Sarawak (395,000 ac [160,000 ha]). In the eastern Himalayas (India) there is also the Lado National Park (124,000 ac [50,000 ha]).

2. The UNESCO biosphere reserves in the cloud forest

2.1 Biosphere reserves in the cloud forest

There are 29 biosphere reserves in 17 African, Asian and American countries, covering a total of 16, 380,000 ac (6,630,000 ha), that include cloud forest ecosystems. The size of these reserves varies from the small Macchabee/Bel Ombre Biosphere Reserve (8,880,000 ac [3,594 ha]) on Mauritius, and the Sierra de Luquillo Biosphere Reserve in Puerto Rico, to the large spaces of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Biosphere Reserve in Colombia and Manu in Peru (4,648,500 ac [1,881,200 ha], although most of the park is lowland or montane rainforest). In South America, there are six biosphere rainforest reserves that include cloud forest. There are six in Central America; in the Caribbean there are three; and in Africa there are nine and in Asia there are four.

2.2 The biosphere reserves in the American cloud forest

A good example of the New World tropics cloud forest in South America is the biosphere reserve of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, which had previously been established as a national park in 1964, and covers a total area of 1,807,000 ac (731,250 ha). The park runs from the Caribbean coastline, with very well preserved coral reef, up to the high peaks (19,288 ft [5,879 m]) of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (Colombia). At 10,000 ft (3,000 m) there is a native reserve where the Kogi and the Ika practice traditional agriculture in balance with the natural environment. The vegetation includes cloud forest and the paramos of the altiplanos, which go up to the snow line. Major forest species include the palms (Scheelea magdalenica, Sabal mauritiiformis, Caludonica palmata) and several climbing species of the genus Desmoncus. The endemic animals include the carrikeri subspecies of the cervid (Mazama americana) and the frog Atelopus carrikeri. A great deal of research is carried out in the reserve, into questions of socioeconomic organization and forest management and socioeconomic planning and production systems. Research into the hydrography and zooplankton is ongoing in the large Santa Marta wetlands, and archaeological research in the ruins of the Taironan culture, by the Colombian Institute of Archeology, is done as well.

The Sierra de Manantlan Biosphere Reserve

The Sierra de Manantlan Biosphere Reserve (Mexico) is a representative example of the American cloud forest, although it also contains lowland rainforest and monsoon forest. It was established to protect the exceptional natural beauty of the area, to reaffirm its scientific importance, to maintain its high diversity and to protect many species that are not found in any other type of forest. The reserve includes part of the Sierra Madre del Sur and acts as a bridge between two biogeographical kingdoms, the Holarctic and the Neotropical, and this has led to exchanges of species of northern temperate and tropical origins. This, together with the extraordinary range in altitude, climate and soils, is the reason for the area's extraordinary diversity. The importance of the Sierra de Manantlan was reaffirmed by the discovery of Zea diploperennis, an endemic wild relative of maize that is resistant to many diseases. The Sierra de Manantlan is one of Mexico's six internationally recognised Biosphere Reserves. It enjoys long-term legal protection and is preserved for its genetic resources and the natural ecosystems it contains.

Natural characteristics and features

The Biosphere Reserve is located on the border of two Mexican states; it includes part of southeastern Jalisco and part of northeastern Colima, and is about 16 mi (170 km) from Guadalajara, 32 mi (52 km) north of Manzanillo and about 31 mi (50 km) from the Pacific coastline. It covers 345,000 ac (139,577 ha), with a central area of 103,500 ac (41,901 ha) and other smaller areas, such as El Tigre and Cerro Grande. The central area is a combination of state-owned land, private communally-farmed land (ejidos), and university research stations, while the zone of influence, covering 241,362 ac (97,676 ha), consists of communal and private lands. The reserve contains 18 river basins, with the typical landform of highly erosive watersheds. The main rivers are the Ayuquila and Armeria Rivers to the north and the Marabasco and Purificacion Rivers to the south. The limited absorption of water by the soil and rocky substrate means that runoff accounts for 45% of rainfall, leading to intense soil erosion and sediment accumulation in the valleys, where the rivers flow more slowly and deposit the sediment they bear. Over the course of the year, the Sierra de Manantlan supplies the valleys with a volume of water that is used by the over 4,000 people living in the area of influence. The reserve clearly shows the effects of volcanic and tectonic activity, and there are batholiths (igneous rock below the surface), faults, and volcanic domes formed from ancient seabeds. The dominant landscape features are the highlands in the northwest, igneous rocks that have formed a volcanic mountain block. There are a large number of rocks of varying chemical compositions; there are also eleven different soil types, none of them very fertile and all subject to erosion.

The climatic conditions in the Sierra de Manantlan range from hot to temperate. The reserve reaches an altitude of 6,398 ft (1,950 m) and its climate is basically cool and wet. Humidity is high due to the sea mist even in the dry season, although at altitudes between 1,312 and 9,711 ft (400 and 2,960 m) the temperatures are relatively cool. The average mean temperature is between 54 and 73[degrees]F (12 and 23[degrees]C) and the average annual rainfall is about 71 in (1,800 mm), mostly falling in just six months of the year.

In terms of biodiversity, Mexico ranks fourth in the world after Brazil, Indonesia, and Colombia, and the Manantlan Biosphere Reserve in particular is one of the most important centers of biodiversity in Mexico. This biodiversity is the result of the wide range of ecological habitats and regions. Around 40-50% of the Mexico's plants are endemic, and many occur in the Sierra de Manantlan. The flora is especially rich with 1,958 species of plant, including about 160 species of orchid. Seventeen plants are endemic to the reserve, the most important of which is the wild relative of maize, teosinte or chapule (Zea diploperennis) discovered in 1977.

The reserve contains eight different types of forest, including mesophytic tropical forest, cloud forest, deciduous forest, and semideciduous forest. The tropical and subtropical vegetation includes tropical rainforest, which originally covered about 6% of the area, but half of this has now been deforested. Mexico has about 173,000 ac (70,000 ha) of mesophytic forest, 50,000 (20,000) of them in the reserve. The cool, moist climate favors the growth of mosses and lichens, together with other epiphytic plants (orchids, ferns and bromeliads), climbing plants and many fungi (including some highly toxic mushrooms and molds). Above 2,953 ft (900 m) the composition of the typical vegetation changes, and cloud forest becomes dominant, with pine-oak and pine-fir forest associations (Pinus-Quercus and Pinus-Abies), the pine-fir association becoming more abundant with increasing altitude. The ferns of the genus Trichypteris, the podocarps (Podocarpus) and the genera Magnolia and Talauma (Magnoliaceae) are very interesting survivors of a very ancient flora. Other interesting representatives include the grasses of the genus Tripsacum and a wild maize, Zea mays var. parviglumis. These wild relatives of cultivated maize are going extinct due to their replacement by cultivated varieties, although in the long-term they may be of great use in responding to changes in environmental conditions. In the past, many of these plants were threatened by large- and local-scale forest exploitation. Since the reserve's creation, a process of regeneration has begun that has mainly benefited the pines, as well as some hardwoods.

Mexico has the highest diversity of reptiles in the world, and the second highest number of mammals. It also has 8.7% of all the world's species of amphibian, 11% of all reptiles and 14% of all fish species. The reserve has more than 20 species of amphibian, 60 species of reptile, 336 species of bird (30% of those found in Mexico), 108 species of mammal (25% of those found in Mexico) and 16 species of fish. The more interesting mammals include the 6 species of feline that occur in Mexico, two of which, the jaguar (Panthera onca) and the ocelot (Felis pardalis) are in danger of extinction, and a third, the jagouarundi (F. yagouaroundi), which may also be endangered. Other species of mammals in danger of extinction include the river otter (Lutra longicaudis), the collared peccary (Tayassu tajacu), the Mexican shrew (Megasorex gigas), squirrel (Sciurus colliaei) and the Mexican mole (Microtus mexicanus naveriae). The endangered birds include the macaw Ara militaris, Finsch's Amazon (Amazona finschi), the crested guan (Penelope purpurascens) and the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos).

Management and problems

The reserve's area of influence is sparsely populated and anthropologists call it the "zona de Occidente" (the Western Zone), due to its clear difference from the rest of Central America. Pottery remains, figures and graves have been found and it is thought that before the Spanish Conquest the area was inhabited by the Otomi who built houses with roots, branches and mud, and thus left few remains. They depended on the forest for their food, clothing and shelter, and extracted fibers from the maguey (Agave) and cotton (Gossypium). The main crops, before and after the Conquest, were maize, chili peppers and fruit trees. The 18th century saw the introduction of ranching, which became important after the 1910 revolution. The Spanish Conquest of Mexico destroyed or modified many of the traditional land-use systems, which in the pre-Hispanic period were based on agroforestry.

About 32,000 people live in the Sierra de Manantlan Biosphere Reserve, about 5,000 of them permanent residents in the inner zone of influence and about 10,000 more in the outer zone of influence. Agriculture is still their main means of support, and they live in poor and marginal conditions as they are one of the most neglected groups in Jalisco, and the local caciques (political bosses) and logging companies often ignore their land rights. Those living in the zone of influence practice subsistence agriculture but also engage in intensive agriculture (maize, beans, tomatoes, sugarcane, watermelon, mango), raise stock, grow timber for construction, and firewood, charcoal production or mineral extraction. Teosinte (Zea diploperennis) is considered a potential future crop, as it is the only wild species that is resistant or immune to the seven main viruses that affect cultivated maize. Other activities undertaken in the reserve, in decreasing order of importance, are fishing and mollusc gathering, recreational activities, tourism, agroforestry projects, and aquaculture. Although commercial logging is not permitted in the central area, there are still piles of sawdust several meters tall remaining from logging that began in the 1940s. Between 1961 and 1976, 539,483 yd3 (414,987 [m.sup.3]) of wood were extracted (41,493 yd3 [31,918 [m.sup.3]] a year).

Long-term ecological studies are also being carried out in the reserve and conservation projects are under way for Zea diploperennis. Other endemic species are also being studied as is the conservation of animal and bird habitats. There is an integrated project for basic and applied exploitation of the land, sustainable management and conservation aims for the region. Other research activities include a systematic inventory, comparative ecology, ecological succession, restoration of ecosystems, ethnobiology, forest fires and their effects, forestry research, management of genetic resources, limnology and hydrology, pests and diseases, resource mapping, study of soils and their conservation, traditional land-use systems and environmental education. Other research has been planned, such as studies of rural technology, biogeochemical cycles, cultural anthropology, hydrological cycles, grazing land management, rare and/or endangered species, water management and animal population dynamics. The Las Joyas Natural Laboratory has become the most important center in this part of Mexico for research, due to the successful results obtained in the reserve.

The area's management is essentially in line with that of the other biosphere reserves in Mexico. There are a certain number of established objectives, including long-term research and control programs, the promotion of integrated rural development, local participation, environmental education, information exchange and recreational activities. The central area is strictly protected, but berries and fungi are still gathered, river crustaceans are caught and wood is extracted. Approximately 3,088 acres (1,250 ha) has been fenced off to prevent livestock and shifting farmers from entering. The inner zone of influence has a similar status, but there is no information on the activities carried out in it. Legal protection is not so strict in the external zone of influence, where activities include agriculture, grazing, timber production, firewood extraction, mineral extraction, fishing, recreational activities, tourist development, agroforestry projects and aquaculture. Despite the area's management as a biosphere reserve, unauthorized grazing occurs, as does poaching in the central area. Other potentially prejudicial activities are also practiced in the outer area of influence, such as poaching, grazing of cattle, industrial development, and changes in land-use. There are also some settlements. Several of these activities may exceed the limits established by the reserve's regulations.

In general, the most severe restrictions within the reserve apply to matters like the excessive grazing throughout the area, forest fires, logging, soil degradation, loss of genetic resources, poaching and the illegal cultivation of marijuana (Cannabis sativa) and opium poppy (Papaver somniferum). In the case of grazing, the situation is made worse by the fact that the livestock usually belongs to people who do not live in the area, but rent the land for use as grazing, thus eliminating the cattle deprives the local inhabitants of this income.

2.3 The biosphere reserves in the African cloud forests

In the Afrotropical kingdom there are two adjacent biosphere reserves (one in Ivory Coast and the other in the Republic of Guinea) on Mount Nimba, which has been created from previously protected areas (in 1943 in Ivory Coast, and in 1944 in Guinea) on the frontier between the two countries. Located in an area rising from about 1,476 ft (450 m) to a highest elevation of 5,748 ft (1,752 m), the reserves are covered almost year round by a dense cloud layer above 2,789 ft (850 m).

More than 2,000 plant species have been described and more than 500 new species of animals, more than 200 of them endemic. The more interesting endemic plants include a fern Asplenium schnelli, together with Osbeckia portersi (Melostomataceae) and Blaeria nimbana (Ericaceae). This region has been recognized as a center of plant diversity by the Plant Conservation Programme developed by IUCN and WWF (Centres of Plant Diversity project). In addition to the cloud forest, it also includes the highest mountain open areas, with Loudetia kagarensis. At higher altitudes, mainly in gullies and gorges, there is a fern, Cyathula cylindrica, that is a relict of ancient cloud forests. Above 3,281 ft (1,000 m) the dominant species is the gingerbread plum (Parinari excelsa), accompanied by many epiphytes. At altitudes between 3,281 and 5,249 ft (1,000 and 1,600 m), the savannah is criss-crossed by gallery forest. At the base of the mountain there is primary forest, dominated by obeche (Triplochiton scleroxylon), iroko (Chlorophora regia), and idigbo (Terminalia ivorensis).

Habitat destruction is the main threat facing both these biosphere reserves, mainly as a result of shifting agriculture and mining activity (iron ore extraction) in the south of the range, in Liberia, because this has led to the construction of roads and mining (for iron minerals) and settlement in sites that have been nature reserves for 50 years. In 1989 the authorities in Ivory Coast and Guinea signed a convention with UNESCO and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to start a project to study the impact within the reserve of traditional agricultural methods and ion ore extraction.

2.4 Biosphere reserves in the Indo-Pacific cloud forests

The Cibodas Biosphere Reserve is one of the oldest protected areas in the Indo-Malaysian region. The 600 ac (240 ha) site was declared a nature reserve in 1889, the first in what was then the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, next to the already existing Cibodas Botanic Garden. The reserve rises from 3,280-9,938 ft (1,000-3,029 m) (the peak of Mount Pangrango), in one of the wettest areas of Java. The annual rainfall varies from 118-158 in (3,000-4,000 mm), and the highest areas have cloud cover throughout almost the entire year. The park contains many types of vegetation, but most is covered by cloud forest. In the wettest areas, between 4,593 and 5,249 ft (1,400 and 1,600 m) in altitude, the forest is characterized by the abundant presence of bryophytes, a canopy more than 131 ft (40 m) high with many epiphytes, such as the bird's-nest fern (Asplenium nidus) and 208 species of orchid. The more important canopy species include the highly commercially valuable Altingia excelsa (Hamamelidaceae), and several members of the Lauraceae (Litsea) and Fagaceae (Lithocarpus). Above 5,413 ft (1,650 m), the dominant species are Leptospermum flavescens (Myrtaceae) and the conifer Podocarpus neriifolius. Above 7,874 ft (2,400 m) there is a subalpine association whose most no-table characteristictic is the large number of genera originally from the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. In the park and surrounding areas, 245 species of bird have been recorded, including a number endemic to Java, especially the pygmy tit (Psaltria exilis), known only from this western area of the mountains of Java. The reserve is uninhabited, although the surrounding lowlands are among the most densely populated areas of Java. The park received more than 30,000 visitors a year in the late 1970s, together with another 200,000 visitors to the neighboring Cibodas Botanic Garden. The region has a long history of research going back to the early 19th century when the Botanic Garden was created. A 1978 management plan has divided the reserve into an intensively used area for tourism, a wildlife zone, different strictly protected sanctuary areas, and buffer zone around it. The most important disturbances are agricultural intrusions on the edges, the great impact made by visitors' acts of vandalism and aggression against the natural flora, and the collection of firewood and other forest products by local residents.

251 The world's best-known area of protected cloud forest is probably the Monteverde Reserve in Costa Rica. The photograph shows the many tree ferns, epiphytes and bamboos.

[Photo: Michael & Patricia Fogden]

252 The spectacular Angel Falls, a drop of 3,212 ft (979 m), is the highest waterfall in the world and the view most admired by visitors to Canaima National Park (Venezuela). More important than its spectacle is its geological significance: As it emerges from the Auyan tepuy, which reaches an altitude of almost 10,000 ft (3,000 m), as an outflow of the Churun River, an underground river, until it flows over the edge, 197 ft (60 m) below the clifftop. The water flows first into the Carrao, a tributary of the River Caroni, which is in turn a tributary of the Orinoco (see also figure 12).

[Photo: Jaume Altadill]

253 Biosphere reserves (1998) in areas of cloud forest, indicating the year each one was declared and its area. The area given (in hectares) is for the entire reserve, although it may include other types of formation, especially lowland rainforest. For example, most of the Manu Biosphere Reserve (Peru), one of the largest, is lowland rainforest, whereas the Palawan Biosphere Reserve also includes areas of monsoon forest. It should be borne in mind that in many cases the biosphere reserve was already protected as a national park, wildlife reserve, a forest reserve, and these may or may not coincide in size.

[Drawing: Editronica, from data provided by the authors]

254 There are many rare or noteworthy species in the Manantlan Biosphere Reserve. They include the famous teosinte (see figure 242), and the bird fauna contains interesting species such as Finsch's Amazon (Amazonia finschi).

[Photo: Xavier Ferrer & Adolf de Sostoa]

255 The collared peccary (Tayassu tajacu) is another species in danger of extinction that finds refuge in the Manantlan Biosphere Reserve. It has long been hunted.

[Photo: Carol Farneti / Natural Science Photos]

256 One of the treasures of Manantlan's fauna, and one of its main ecotourist attractions, is the jaguar (Panthera onca). Undeniably one of the most impressive felines in the Americas, it is also highly endangered, even though its general range is very large and includes rainforest, dry tropical forest, and savannah.

[Photo: Carol Farneti / Natural Science Photos]

257 Collaboration between different countries is often desirable when establishing protected areas, as political and administrative frontiers rarely have biogeographical significance. One example of this collaboration is the Mount Nimba Biosphere Reserve, between Guinea and Ivory Coast.

[Photo: Peter Davey / Bruce Coleman Limited]

258 The beauty of rhododendrons, in this photo Rhododendron javanicum, is among the attractions of some of the biosphere reserves in the cloud forests of southeast Asia, such as Cibodas Reserve (Indonesia).

[Photo: Alain Compost / WWF / Still Pictures]
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Publication:Encyclopedia of the Biosphere
Date:Feb 1, 2000
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