Montag, 1. November 2010

Extinction of Cloud Forest in Puebla, México

For the RAP (Regional Action Project) by Global Changemakers 2010

What is going on?
In México this type of forest is one of the most important and threatened ecosystems in the country due its big biodiversity and limited distribution area.  Originally it covered 1% of the country’s territory, which means approximately 2 million of hectares, so it has always been a small ecosystem. Still, today it only remains the half of this type of forest! As extra info, it’s good to know that Mexican Cloud Forests do not accomplish all the requirements of a typical cloud forest; they are normally described as ecosystems of low/medium stature, evergreen and predominated by tropical trees. In Mexico they are the opposite: they have tall trees and s a big amount of template species like oak, sweet gum, pepinques and magnolias.  

Why to tackle it?
Cloud forest (bosque mesófilo de altura) is a fragile ecosystem. It has a mixture of dense trees communities, integrated by template and tropical original plants, though the last ones are the ones that predominate the most. Deforestation and excessive logging makes this ecosystem very vulnerable because this affects directly the high atmospherically humidity and rain requirements. 
The importance of this type of forest is due to the following:
  1. Biodiversity
With a current coverage of about 0.5 percent of national territory, is has the 10% of the total flora of Mexico and about 3 000 species. In addition 30% of its plants are endemic. These forests also have high biodiversity and endemism of fauna including mammals, amphibians, birds and butterflies. Therefore, the cloud forests are on the kind of ecosystem that contributes most to the biodiversity of Mexico, in relative terms of number of species per hectare.

  1. Conservation
Many endemic species are restricted to small forest fragments. As these species do not exist outside of these fragments, the deforestation of them is dooming to the extinction of these species. That is why many endemic species of the cloud forests are threatened or endangered.
The cloud forest is home of the largest number of threatened, rare, endangered or subject to special protection species , even more than the high evergreen forest (according to Mexican Official Norm - NOM-059-ECOL-1994). The cloud forests are the habitat for 415 species in the NOM-059-ECOL-1994, 103 of them are flowering plants and 131 are species of amphibians and reptiles (compared to 381 species of tropical rain forest). In the cloud forests about 11% of the plant species of the whole country can be found.

3. Environmental Services
The cloud forests are the ecosystems that capture more water per hectare. Uptake of rainfall and fog is high, even in the dry season, due that they take place in higher rainfall areas of the country (between 2 000 and 6 000 mm / year).
Also, forests help to conserve soil, which sometimes is not well established and is presented on a steep topography with high a risk of erosion and landslides.
Carbon capture by the cloud forests has a high potential to obtain payments from industrialized countries in the context of "trade" of carbon dioxide emissions. The carbon capture trough forest biomass is also important because the ground is always wet so it does not allow the degradation of organic matter.

4. Coffe Production
High Quality Coffee production requires the unique conditions of the cloud forest, so that means that the country's coffee regions are the regions of cloud forest. Traditionally, coffee trees are planted under the shade of forest trees. It is also usual the removal of some trees to plant jinicuil (Inga spp.) and fruit trees.
Coffee production in these conditions is good and has the advantage that the ecosystem generally retains most of the biodiversity of the forest.
But recently, it has proliferated the coffee production under sun, which involves the removal of trees. This practice, along with extensive ranching, can increase economical incomes, but at the cost of quality and preservation of biodiversity as it contributes to reduce the cloud forests.

How is it affecting my region?
During the eighties and nineties the destruction of this type of forest took place. This was a consequence of the loss of rain forests at lower altitudes during the seventies and the subsequent deforestation of the the remaining vegetation in the highlands for the cultivation of fields.
Today the percentage of cloud forest is still decreasing and due that Puebla has around 37.935 hectares surface of this kind of ecosystem and not only plants and animals depend on it but also indigenous inhabitants that have been responsible of the conservation and manage of it, it is important to make more emphasis on the conservation and good manage of it.

How to tackle it?

In order to tackle this situation, first we should be able to understand the importance of the existence of it and its big influence in our state so we can create conscience and act against its exploitation.
Today most of the best-conserved cloud forest in our country are populated by indigenous communities, and it’s them the ones that have known how to manage the resources in a sustainable way.  This kind of ecosystem is the one that captures more water than any other for human and economical uses. It also avoids soil erosion making it proper for crop plantations. It captures carbon in the vegetation as also in the soil, which has also big potential for receiving economical incomes. In only 1% of the whole country’s territory it has 11% of the biodiversity that can be found in Mexico including also endemic species.
The disorganized exploitation of the forest cause by proliferated coffee production under sun and fruit trees, which involves the removal of local trees and also extensive ranching, must be stopped and reorganized. This happens mostly because of lack of information, support and also monitoring and supervision from authorities and external people.

The only way to preserve these ecosystems is helping them develop in a proper way; by this is meant: satisfying the needs of indigenous communities with inhabitants participation and collaboration providing them the proper technology and knowledge, making a bond of team work and conscience between indigenous communities and engaged people from Puebla that are committed to work for the benefit of it; as Mexican anthropologist Toledo say: “To preserve biodiversity is very important to establish new alliances between communities, government and NGOs. The local administration gathered with the government, NGOs and Institutions is probably the best way of guaranteeing the effective protection of landscapes, habitats, species and worlds genes”.