A Study into Cloud Forests

The installation of a long-term setup to investigate the impact of a cloud forest canopy on the Mestelá River catchment and its effect on various stakeholders

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The research question addressed in this study is ”To what extent does the presence of a cloud forest canopy impact the Mestelá River catchment and how will this affect the various involved stakeholders?”. The study aims to investigate the importance of cloud forests in the Mestelá River catchment, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, related to water security and the social impact of cloud forest conservation and management. The research methods used in this study were a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods.

Cloud forests play a vital role in regulating water flow in catchments. The Mestelá River catchment, where the NGO Community Cloud Forest Conservation (CCFC) is situated, is the focus of this research. The project’s primary aim was to establish a long-term canopy setup, ensuring future data collection. The project’s scope encompasses a range of methodologies, including the installation of a long-term measurement station in the canopy, computation of the Mestelá River discharge, the development of a rating curve, and the utilisation of a FLEX-Topo model to simulate the hydrological cycle in the catchment. Additionally, a stakeholder management analysis was conducted to understand the complex impact of cloud forests (conservation) on various stakeholders.

The study did not explicitly formulate any hypotheses, but the findings provide evidence for the impact of cloud forest canopies on river catchments and discharge. The study also has limitations, including the small sample size and the lack of long-term data. However, the study provides valuable insights into the importance of cloud forest ecosystems for water security and the social impact of cloud forest conservation and management. The stakeholder analysis reveals that for CCFC two methods of advocacy can be used. Whilst the CCFC is effective in bottom-up engagement with the community, in addition, a strip for small children was constructed. For top-down advocacy, using the FLEX-Topo
model for visualising water security in combination with cloud forest protection holds promise.

The implications of this work are substantial for cloud forest conservation and associated ecosystems. The findings offer valuable insights for developing effective conservation strategies that consider the canopy’s impact on the catchment and its stakeholders. It is important to note that the FLEX-Topo model is currently conceptual and requires further refinement and detail for the Mestelá River catchment. Nevertheless, this study contributes significantly to the understanding of cloud forest ecosystems and offers practical and theoretical applications for future research and conservation efforts.