Desert Cloud Forest Discovered in Oman

Posted on September 8, 2006

Oman Cloud Forest

An MIT research team has discoved an unusual forest in Oman. The trees in this cloud forest stay alive by pulling moisture from seasonal mist.

Elfatih A.B. Eltahir, professor of civil and environmental engineering, and former MIT graduate student Anke Hildebrandt, say, "In an area that is characterized mostly by desert, the trees have preserved an ecological niche because they exploit a wispy-thin source of water that only occurs seasonally."

The research warn the amazing site could go extinct if hungry camels continue to consume too much of the foliage. They warn, "As the greenery disappears it's possible the trees will lose the ability to pull water from the mist and recharge underground reservoirs."

A report on the research was published in Geophysical Research Letters. The researchers are also advising the Omani government on handling the problem.

Cloud forests are not uncommon. A Wikipedia entry has photographs of several tropical cloud forests. But this cloud forest in the desert is unusual. Unfortunately, the cloud forest is very fragile and could be destroyed by the locals owning too many camels and over-grazing the region.

MIT professor Elfatih Eltahir headed up the research into the Oman cloud forest and supplied the photograph.

Photo: Photo courtesy / Elfatih Eltahir

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