Cloudforest is a rare type of forest, making up only 2.5 per cent of the total area of the world’s tropical forests. In the Americas, cloudforest is an even rarer forest habitat, forming 1.2 per cent of the tropical forests of this region.
Peru is known for harboring a wide range of ecosystems and one among these critical ecosystems is the cloudforest.
One of the regions where Rainforest Partnership works on-the-ground in Peru is the Colibri cloudforest. This forest is located in Peru’s Selva Central region where the Andes descends to meet the Amazon.
The Colibri cloudforest region has an undulating topography which helps it harbor a diverse set of rare, endemic and endangered flora and fauna that can be found only at certain elevations and have limited distribution in other parts of the region.
Among floristic diversity in the region is a bibliographic record of 3,758 species in 1,191 genera and 88 families of angiosperms, gymnosperms and pteridophytes. Vegetation primarily includes epiphyte lichens, mosses, ferns, orchids and bromeliads. The Colibri region has many locally vulnerable and IUCN Red-listed species such as Juglans neotropica, Prumnopitys montana, Retrophyllum rospigliosii, and Mauria killipii.
Among fauna, diversity is high among the species of birds and butterflies. Bird species range from the Andean cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruvianus, the national bird of Peru) to other species including hummingbirds, tanagers, toucanets, quetzals, and IUCN Red-listed species such as the royal cinclodes and red-faced parrot.
Some of the rare species of butterflies in this area include Ancyluris meliboeus, Enos falerina, Mimoides ariarathes, Parides erithalion, and Memphis leonida. The Colibri region is also home to mammals such as the spectacled bear, red howler monkey, red-faced spider monkey, puma, ocelot and armadillo.
Cloudforests are an essential source of fresh water. They capture water from the condensation from the constant clouds and fog that envelop these forests and increase the water flow in rivers and streams downstream.
Cloudforests also have critical impact on natural weather systems, from regulation of rainfall patterns to carbon sequestration. A study by D.V. Spracklen and R. Righelato titled ‘Tropical montane forests are a larger than expected global carbon store’ highlights the important of cloudforests as reservoirs of carbon.
According to the research findings from the Cloud Forest Agenda report (http://www.ourplanet.com/wcmc/pdfs/cloudforests.pdf), cloudforests are also likely to be uniquely affected by climate change due to a reduction in cloudiness at lower altitudes as temperatures increase. It will result in less frequent immersion of the forest in the clouds and reduced capture of water by the vegetation, with a consequent drying out of the ecosystem.
Cloudforests like Colibri need to be protected and conserved to maintain their repository of genetic resources and allow them to continue to provide critical ecosystem services of importance at local, regional, national and even global levels.
In the Colibri cloudforest region, Rainforest Partnership has been working with the neighboring communities of San Antonio and Calabaza since 2008. This region offers great potential for the development of ecotourism ventures. We have been supporting the on-going development of ecotourism that is directed and managed by the communities of San Antonio and Calabaza by providing capacity building training and the funding for infrastructure.
More than 300 tourists (domestic and international) visit these communities every year and they get to explore the region’s many natural attractions and view the rich tapestry of mosses, lichens, bromeliads and orchids which blanket the mountain, through hiking and trekking trails. The tourists also get the opportunity view wildlife from big mammals such as the Spectacled Bear all the way to the many endemic butterflies present in this region. Apart from attracting seasoned bird-watchers who traverse this region to site the incredible diversity of birds such as White-capped Dippers feeding around waterfalls to Bluish-fronted Jacamar foraging in the trees, bird-watching is also popular among tourists looking to spot charismatic birds like the Cock-of-the-Rock.
There are several beautiful waterfalls in the region that are popular with tourists. These include the popular “Gallito de las Rocas” waterfalls very close to the community of San Antonio, “Bautizo” between San Antonio and Calabaza, and “Yuncanbado” and “Tambor Paccha” a little farther away from Calabaza.
In the last several years, the two communities have made key in-roads towards cloud forest protection. The clean and comfortable, albeit basic, services offered by the two communities through their respective ecohostel have helped in promoting the ecotourism potential of the region and bolstered the local economy. We are working towards promoting more environmentally sustainable practices such as butterfly sanctuaries and beekeeping in the communities along with establishing protected areas in the region.
The Colibri cloudforest region is thus an important site for understanding the synergy between environmentally sustainable economic development and forest conservation.