Birds Retreating from Climate Change and Deforestation in Honduras Cloud Forests


Bird diversity shifts upslope in tropical mountainous terrain.

The cloud forests of Honduras can seem like an otherworldly place, where the trees are thick with life that takes in water straight from the air around it, and the soundscape is littered with the calls of animals singing back and forth.

Otherworldly, yes, but scientists have found that the cloud forests are not immune to very down-to-earth problems of climate change and deforestation. A 10-year study of bird populations in Cusuco National Park, Honduras, shows that the peak of bird diversity in this mountainous park is moving higher in elevation. Additional land protection, unfortunately, may not be enough to reverse the trend, driven in part by globally rising temperatures. The study is published in Biotropica.

“A lot of these species are specialized to these mountain ranges,” says study lead author Monte Neate-Clegg, a doctoral student at the University of Utah, “and they don’t have a lot of options as to where to go should things go wrong.”

A cloud forest is an ecosystem that derives much of its moisture from water vapor in the surrounding air. Due to elevation and climate conditions, these forests are fed directly by clouds. Nothing ever dries, Neate-Clegg says.

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Image via University of Utah