The Cloud Forest - A Walk in a Tropical Forest


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Recently, we were fortunate to visit one of these virgin Cloud forest in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia. Most of the photos for Powerpoint were taken during our visit. The climate there is so wet that most of the surfaces were covered with mosses. The places is dripping with water. One surprising thing was that because it is so high up there were no mosquitoes and I did not see any insects either. There were nothing crawling about. But the experience is really worthwhile. They built a walkway for the visitors, so we are always above the forest floor. It also allowed us to walk amongst the ‘canopy’ of the forest.
One cannot but impressed with the diversity of plant life there. On a single tree trunk can harbour many species of plants. It is a profusion of plant life, rather chaotic, tangled and overwhelming.

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  • Characteristics of Cloud Forest In comparison with lower tropical moist forests, cloud forests show a reduced tree stature combined with increased stem density and generally the lower diversity of woody plants. [8] Trees in these regions are generally shorter and more heavily stemmed than in lower-altitude forests in the same regions, often with gnarled knobbly, rough, twisted trunks and branches, forming dense, compact crowns. Their leaves become smaller, thicker and harder with increasing altitude. [9] The high moisture promotes the development of a high biomass and biodiversity of epiphyte , particularly bryophytes , lichens , ferns (including filmy ferns ), bromeliads and orchids . [10] The number of endemic plants can be very high. [11] An important feature of cloud forests is the tree crowns can intercept the wind-driven cloud moisture, part of which drips to the ground. This water stripped from the clouds is termed horizontal or occult (because it is not recorded with normal rainfall measurement) precipitation, and can be an important contribution to the hydrologic cycle . [12] Due to the high water content of the soil, the reduced solar radiation and the low rates of decomposition and mineralization , the soil acidity is very high, [13] with more humus and peat often forming the upper soil layer. [14] Stadtmüller (1987) distinguishes two general types of tropical montane cloud forests: Areas with a high annual precipitation due to a frequent cloud cover in combination with heavy and sometimes persistent orographic rainfall; such forests have a perceptible canopy strata, a high number of epiphytes, and a thick peat layer which has a high storage capacity for water and controls the runoff; In drier areas with mainly seasonal rainfall, cloud stripping can amount to a large proportion of the annual precipitation.
  • The Cameron Highlands is basically a vast region subjected to torrential showers. The humidity is high with no marked dry seasons. Its wettest months are from October to November; its “driest” period is from January to February. There are more than 700 species of plants that grow here. The vegetation changes as one ascends the mountain. The ward is noted for its tea growing, vegetable farms and flower nurseries. Its woodlands form the prevailing natural ecosystem within and around the prefecture. Besides its flora, the district also plays host to a wide variety of animals, birds, reptiles and insects. Of these, the Sumatran serow, Mountain Peacock-Pheasant and Malayan Whistling-Thrush are listed in the 2004 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. There are eight mountains at the retreat, namely Mount (Malay: Gunung ) Batu Brinchang (2,031 metres (6,663 ft)), Mount Berembun (1,840 metres (6,040 ft)), Mount Irau (2,091 metres (6,860 ft)), Mount Jasar (1,696 metres (5,564 ft)), Mount Mentigi (1,563 metres (5,128 ft)), Mount Perdah (1,576 metres (5,171 ft)) and Mount Siku (1,916 metres (6,286 ft)). Mount Swettenham (1,961 metres (6,434 ft)) is located on its border with Kelantan. At the top of Mount Batu Brinchang is a radio and television station. Close to it is the mossy forest.
  • The Cloud Forest - A Walk in a Tropical Forest

    1. 1. First created 5 Jun 2013. Version 1.0 - 10 Jun 2013. Jerry Tse. London.A Cloud ForestA walk in a Tropical Forest
    2. 2. The green areas show the distribution of the world’s forestsDistribution of world’s Forests
    3. 3. Type of ForestsConiferous ForestTemperate ForestTropical ForestThere are many more types of forest than shown. Tropical Montane Cloud Forests (TMCF) is a distinctive forest type.ExamplesRainforest - Amazon Bamboo Forest - Hawaii Taiga Forest - Canada
    4. 4. What is aTropical Montane Cloud Forest, TMCFTropical Montane Cloud Forest (FMCF) also called HighAltitude Tropical Forest or simple Cloud Forest or Fog Forestor Mossy Forest, is characterized by a persistent or seasonallow-level of cloud cover or wind-driven clouds.Cloud forests (TMCF) are often covered with mosses andvegetations. It is a type of evergreen forest. Typically theyare about 1500m to 3000m above sea level.From the above table 48% of the world’s TMCF are found inAsia, 35% in Americas and 17% in Africa.
    5. 5. A walk in a TropicalMontane Cloud ForestA forest is often covered by low drifting clouds
    6. 6. We got up in the night and drove to the highest point on the Malaysian Peninsula that can be reached by road, Gunung Brinchang.Gunung Brinchang
    7. 7. As the sun rose, we were 2100 m high (6600 feet) surrounded by clouds. The temperature dropped to a single digit with strongwinds.Sunrise in Cloud
    8. 8. A source of high quality waterClouds were forced up the mountain by the onshore wind. The temperature fell as the altitude increased. Dews were formedas the clouds made contact with the vegetation. This is called “cloud stripping”.
    9. 9. Up to 50-60% of the moisture in the cloud can be ‘stripped’ away this way.Cloud stripping.
    10. 10. Plants were dripping with water. The forest acts like a sponge, soaking up water and then released back to the surroundingareas.high quality water
    11. 11. Cloud forests provide a source of clean water for the areas below the mountain, even during the dry seasons.A constant source of water
    12. 12. The Mossy Forest (TMCF) in Gunung Brinchang is about 200,000 years old. The biodiversity of the Cloud forests (TMCF) arerich. They rank only after the low altitude Tropical Rainforests.Biodiversity of Cloud Forest
    13. 13. Low ProductivityIt is surprising to learn that Cloud Forests have low productivity. There are no giant hard wood trees. Instead trees look stuntedand their stature reduced to about 10m high, with increased stem density. All these are signs of slow growth. An ordinarylooking tree may take tens if not a hundred years to grow.
    14. 14. Low ProductivityThe low productivity and stunted growth of the forest may be due to - water saturated soil, making it difficult for roots tobreathe; poor soil often with underlying rocks; reduced photosynthesis as the sun is frequently blocked by the clouds; lowtemperature and strong wind because of the high altitude; lastly low rate of decomposition and mineralization. The soilacidity is very high.
    15. 15. Epiphytes plantsCloud forest is very rich in epiphytes, which are plants that grow on another plant or building or post, but non-parasitical.They take their moisture and nutrients directly from the air. Examples are mosses, lichens, algae, ferns, orchids andbromeliads.
    16. 16. Epiphytes plantsA tree trunk is covered with epiphytic plants. Most Cloud forest plants have smaller, thicker and harder leaves. Many show a waxyappearance. Coloured leaves, particularly red are common.
    17. 17. The pitcher plant is a climbing epiphyte, belonging to the genus of Napenthes. It is a carnivorous plants. It traps insects intoits ‘cup’ of digesting enzyme, which in turn provides phosphorus and nitrogen for the plant. Like all carnivorous plants, theygrow in location where the soil is poor in minerals and/or too acidic for most plants to survive.Pitcher Plant
    18. 18. Cloud forests are covered with mosses. Another name for Tropical Montane Cloud Forests (TMCF) is Mossy ForestsMoss
    19. 19. Mosses absorb water and nutrients mainly through their leaves. Mosses are the most ancient plant on land today.Moss
    20. 20. There are some 12000 species of moss today. Each standing plant is a moss, which can either be a male or female.Moss
    21. 21. Close-up on mosses. These are hypnum moss (cypress-leaved plait-moss). It is a common and widespread species found in allcontinents except Antarctica. It is a typically grown on tree trunks, logs, walls and rocks etc. It prefers an acidic environment. It wasformerly used as fillings for pillows and mattresses. The association with sleep is the origin of the genus name Hypnum (from GreekHyponos).Hypnum Moss
    22. 22. Close-up on mosses (yellowish). Unidentified plants with green and white leaves with stems, may not even be mosses.Moss
    23. 23. MossOn the right is a thick carpet of mosses (possibly Dicranoloma billardiere), with its very slender long leaves and furry appearance.The purple patch (bottom left) of vegetation is possibly a species of liverwort.
    24. 24. A group of unidentified tiny plants growing along side with mosses (the even smaller plants on the photo), but with stemssupporting leaves, arranged like ferns.Epiphytes plants
    25. 25. Fruits or capsules of an unidentified epiphytic plant amongst mosses, a brown network of tentacles.Epiphytes plants
    26. 26. RhododendronA cluster of pink flower from a rhododendron tree, very different from our garden varieties. In China, the Big Treerhododendron (Rhododendron protistum var giganteum) can grow up to 25m.
    27. 27. Forest FloorThe forest flood with mosses, ferns and shrubs. The forest floor is very acidic.
    28. 28. Wild white orchid flower. Many of the more exotic species of orchid have been dug up and removed by horticulturists.Wild Orchid
    29. 29. Wild white orchid flowers.Wild Orchid
    30. 30. A bamboo with leaves fluttering in a strong updraght.Bamboo
    31. 31. Red LeavesIt is common to find young red leaves in the forest. Some researchers (P D Coley, TM Aide, Utah) suggested that red colourin young leaves maybe due to antifungal defence.
    32. 32. Epiphytes plantsA group of epiphytic plants with claw-like seed pods, spouting on a carpet of dead mosses on a healthy old tree.
    33. 33. FernSome ferns are found on trees but the majority of them are on the forest floor.
    34. 34. Flowering PlantTwo unidentified lipstick-like tubular red flowers, with five or six petals and fused at one end, on a thick green waxy leaves plant.
    35. 35. An unidentified plant with small yellow flower-like leaves on a plant with large green, waxy and thick leaves.Flowering Plant
    36. 36. Unidentified small white flowers. According to one report the largest family of plant in the Gunung Brinchang Cloud forestbelongs to the Rubiaceae family of plants (the coffee family).Flowering Plant
    37. 37. Isolated EcosystemBecause TMCFs are found on mountain top, they tend to be smaller than the Tropical Rainforests and are often isolated byaltitude from other TMCFs.
    38. 38. EndemismCloud Forests provide habitat for many rare and unique flowers, birds, monkeys, frogs and animals. One such species is theMountain Gorillas of Central Africa. In the Cloud forest at Gunung Brinchang, it has 9 species that are endemic to Malaysia and 1species endemic to Cameron Highlands. This is known as endemism and often associated with TMCF.
    39. 39. Locally it is called “Purple Cobra Lily” (Arisaema filiforme). It is a very rare flower. It is not carnivorous. It can change sex basedon nutrition. It belongs to the Aroideae family of plant, which is structurally different from other flowers, with a hood and a largespadix. We found this just outside the perimeter of the Cloud Forest by the road side.Cobra Lily
    40. 40. The “Purple Cobra Lily” grows at elevation over 1800m. It is only found in this area in Malaysia. Species like this is often isolatedfrom others by altitude.Cobra Lily
    41. 41. Finally we said goodbye to the Tropical Montane Cloud Forest of Gunung Brinchang, Malaysia. It is often covered with clouds.Cloud Forest, Gunung Brinchang
    42. 42. All rights reserved. Rights belong to their respectiveowners. Available free for non-commercial and personaluse.The EndMusic – Enya. Calm Winds.