Cloud forest provides very important hydrological services.
The cloud forest (also called mesophilous forest) is a very important ecosystem due to the biodiversity it hosts and the hydrological role it plays.
It occurs at the confluence of the Neartic and Neotropical biogeographic regions.
In the cloud forests of Veracruz, 28 species of amphibians, 95 mammals, 594 fungi, 181 birds and more 3,000 plants are reported. This forest hosts 10% of Mexican flora.
In terms of species and biodiversity, it is the most important ecosystem in Mexico.
It occupies steep and rugged areas in the 800 to 2,000 meters altitude belt. The cloud forest occurs in warm, semi-warm climates, with very high levels of rain and fog. It is generally located in canyons that receive moisture from the Mexican Gulf, creating dense fog banks.
In Veracruz, cloud forests mostly raise in deep, clay soils, either from volcanic or limestone origin. Those good fertility conditions and tempered climate naturally create a close relation between cloud forests and shade-grown coffee plantations, given that occupy the same climatic belt. The coffee plantations act as a green buffer zone that protects relatively unperturbed cloud forest.
The primary or secondary-growth cloud forest provides important benefits to society, maybe the most tangible being water. Cloud forests are the sponge that assures protection of springs and water sources.
Due to their location within watersheda, cloud forest holds a very important hydro-regulator role. They help stabilize the surface runoff and facilitate water infiltration, allowing for slow release throughout the whole year, including dry season (drought). Their preservation is essential for supplying cities and for all economical activities.
Cloud forests are highly threatened and represent barely 1% of Mexican territory.
There is a great concern about their decline and recovery. Currently, cloud forest is considered a priority ecosystem. In Veracruz, it has been impacted by cattle ranching, seasonal agriculture and the unplanned urban sprawl without environmental oversight (see map of change of land use).
Cloud forest degradation by grazing goats.
Large areas of damaged cloud forests have been abandoned and colonized by species that block the natural recovery process.
Some of these invasive species are bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) and the star grass (Cynodon plectostachium).
Land invaded by bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum)
The projects take place within the frame of the central region of Veracruz in the Sierra Madre Oriental. The focal areas are the Sierra de Zongolica and priority micro-watersheds of Xalapa and Coatepec (see map).
Working zones in cloud forests
We have carried out ecological restoration actions by means of reforestation and nucleation techniques. The worksites are places to learn actively.
We are looking to document how ecosystems respond to ecological restoration activities. Accordingly, we evaluate the effectiveness of the techniques in order to improve them.
Thanks to the systematic observation of our plots, today we have an experience in and useful information about:
- Official programs of reforestation (federal, state and municipal).
- Restoration projects carried out by other civil society organizations.
- Corporate ecosystems restoration projects
- Owners who want to restore springs and water holes
- Legal protection through certification (Private Area of Conservation)