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Latin America

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Judi Lynn

(160,415 posts)
Mon Sep 19, 2016, 09:30 PM Sep 2016

The Incredible Cloud Forests of Mexico [View all]

The Incredible Cloud Forests of Mexico

A journey into the fragile ecosystem threatened by coffee, logging and climate change.

by Erik Vance, Dominic Bracco II / Prime, and bioGraphic
September 19, 2016

Mexico is a land of dazzling landscapes. From the jungles of Chiapas to the deserts of Sonora, from the freezing 18,500-foot peak of Orizaba to the tortilla-flat Yucatán, from forests filled with butterflies to the underwater abundance surrounding Baja California, Mexico’s ecosystems are easily as diverse and wondrous as those of its northern neighbor.

But there is one landscape I had long wanted to see more than any other—the cloud forest. I’d seen photographs: bizarre and hypnotic places, worlds of mist and mystery, haunted landscapes forever cloaked in fog and secrets. Places where, if you allowed your mind to drift, you could easily imagine trolls and forest sprites wandering under primordial boughs. And yet, beyond these forests’ appearance, I couldn’t really say much about them.

Year after year, I tell myself I will visit the fireflies of Tlaxcala, climb Orizaba and see the cloud forest during the rainy season—and each year, I run out of time. This year, determined to experience these fantastic foggy forests once and for all, I bought a ticket to the city of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, in Chiapas, for the beginning of the rainy season in May. What I learned shocked me. When it comes to this enchanting ecosystem, it seems I am not the only one running out of time.

San Cristóbal, located at an elevation of 2,200 meters (7,200 feet), is perfectly situated for cloud forests, and was once famously surrounded by them. My plan is to explore the forest around Huitepec, an extinct volcano outside town, so I meet up with Paula Enriquez, a biologist at the nearby College of the Southern Border, and the two of us head up the mountain. A sharply intelligent woman with unruly black hair, Enriquez studies the population dynamics of cloud forest birds, especially owls.


Environment & Energy:

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