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What Is a Cloud Forest?

Cloud forests are a type of rain forest, but are different from the hot, humid lowland forests with which most people are familiar. First of all, they're cooler. Temperatures in Monteverde Cloud Forest, for example, are in the 18°C (65°F) range year-round, and feel colder because of the near-constant cool rain. Cloud forests—also known as montane forests—occur at elevations of around 1,950 to 3,450 meters (6,500 to 11,500 feet). At this altitude, clouds accumulate around mountains and volcanoes, providing regular precipitation as well as shade, which in turn slows evaporation. Moisture is deposited directly onto vegetation, keeping it lush and green. The trees here, on top of high ridges and near the summits of volcanoes, are transformed by strong, steady winds that sometimes topple them and regularly break off branches. The resulting collection of small, twisted trees and bushes is known as an elfin forest. The conditions in cloud forests create unique habitats that shelter an unusually high proportion of rare species, making conservation vital. Monteverde is Costa Rica's most touristed cloud forest, but not its only one. Other cloud forests are in nearby Santa Elena Reserve, Los Angeles Cloud Forest Reserve near San Ramón, and around San Gerardo de Dota

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