RESEARCH AT CLOUDBRIDGE
“In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, we will understand only what we are taught.” - Bada Dioum, Senegalese conservationist
- Cloudbridge Flora and Fauna
- The Cloudbridge Reforestation Project
- The Local Environment and Ecology
Please visit the Cloudbridge Research Library to learn more about the studies conducted at Cloudbridge Nature Reserve. If you are interested in conducting a research project at Cloudbridge, please send us some information using this form: Volunteer/Research Application.
We have a long-term project to document the recuperation of flora and fauna on the reserve. This study must be continued, and we invite research volunteers to participate in monitoring and mapping the forested and open areas. Little experience is needed, although assistance with species identification would prove of great value. Details on the methods and results may be found on the photomonitoring and biomonitoring pages.
Research is needed on the local species of plants and animals, including identification and inventory. Baseline studies are essential to enable comparisons over time as the ecology recovers and the plantation progresses. Beyond that, a great deal remains to be learned about species’ habitats and behavior, and the effects of deforestation and reforestation on them. The cloud forest of Cloudbridge and the Chirripó National Park is home to numerous species of birds, including parrots, many hummingbirds, and even the Resplendent Quetzal. Many are endemic to the Talamanca highlands. The reserve shelters spider monkeys, peccaries, sloths, tapirs and other mammals. And lots of arthropods, most of which probably remain to be identified. Bromeliads, orchids, mosses and other epiphytes abound, as do heliconias, tree ferns, vines, lianas, lichens and other flora. Each tree carries a prolific and complex ecosystem of epiphytes, insects, fungi and bacteria as well as birds and mammals. At a more micro level, a single leaf often harbors lichens, liverworts and minuscule creatures feeding on the organic matter and on one another. Much remains to be discovered.
We need help to monitor the progress of the plantation, and to undertake comparisons with the primary and secondary forests of Cloudbridge. The method is described on the plantation monitoring page. With one exception, all the trees we have planted are native to the surrounding high-altitude forest of the Talamanca mountain range. The trees include Cedro dulce/Sweet cedar (Cedrela tonduzii), Yos (Sapium pachystachis ), Tirra/Elm (Ulmus mexicana), Roble/Oak (Quercus copeyensis), Aguacatillo/Wild avocado (Persea caerulea), Lloró (Cornus disciflora), Dama (Citharexylum donnell-smithii ), Nispero (Manilkara zapota), Frutilla (Tournefortia volubilis ), Candelillo (Tecoma stans), Jaul/Alder (Alnus acuminata ) and Cipres/Cypress (Cupressus lusitanica). The last one is widespread in the higher elevations of Costa Rica but is not native — it originates in Mexico. It forms part of our demonstration project of sustainable forestation. Some, like Jaul, are nitrogen-fixing — they help fertilize the soil they grow in. Some bear fruit and seeds to encourage repopulation of the birds and animals, who in turn will disperse the seeds.
Research on changing environmental conditions in the Chirripó valley is needed, including studies of: air quality, the aquifer and water quality, soil quality and erosion, and the impact of agriculture, forestry, settlement and tourism. For example, the Rio Chirripó is pristine where it rushes through Cloudbridge, but becomes less and less so as it passes through inhabited areas and farmland on its way to merge with the Rio El General, whose quality is seriously impaired. As for ecology, much needs to be done to understand the relationships among the cloud forest creatures, and to study the organisms in relation to their environment.
Can we visit? Can we propose a research project?
Yes to both. No charge for visiting. You’ll see why this natural beauty is worth preserving and restoring and understanding better. Studies already completed are listed on the Cloudbridge Research Library page. Some of the initial projects investigated the forest’s lichens, the diversity of insects, and the habitats of birds. Ongoing projects include rainfall and temperature, habitat biomonitoring, water quality and land use.