The value of cloud forests transcends their biological uniqueness. In Peninsular Malaysia, for instance, nearly 62,000 indigenous people are scattered across the Titiwangsa Range (WWF-Malaysia 2002). Cloud forests are also important water sources for densely populated lowland areas. In addition to capturing rainfall, cloud forests strip moisture from passing clouds, which augments groundwater and maintains stream flows. Cloud stripping can actually double the amount of effective rainfall in the dry season and increase total moisture inputs to forests by 10% (Bruijnzeel et al. 1993). Montane vegetation also protects soils from erosion and rivers from sedimentation, thereby protecting the integrity of watersheds (Leong and Chan 2006). Despite their importance, the hydrological and nutrient-cycling dynamics of cloud forests in Southeast Asia are still poorly understood, and more research is clearly needed.
Commercial selective logging, even at low intensities (Brook et al. 1999), poses a serious threat to cloud forests in general. Commercial logging affects around 1.1% of all cloud forests globally per year, a rate higher than that for other tropical forests (Bruijnzeel and Hamilton 2000). The timber industry continues to be a significant contributor to the Malaysian economy. In 2008, timber and wood products contributed an estimated US $6.6 billion (Malaysian ringgit [MYR] 22.5 billion) to the Malaysian economy and 3.3% of the country's merchandise exports, and provided employment for around 300,000 people (MOPICO 2009). Although logging has little effect on forests of the upper montane zone, the lower montane zone is under immense logging pressure, particularly where relatively fewer state forest reserves in the lowlands are available for timber extraction (MOPICO 2009). For instance, parts of the Lojing Highlands in Peninsular Malaysia have already been logged indiscriminately since the 1990s (McIntyre 2007). As timber exports from Malaysia are targeted to increase by 6.4% per annum (MOPICO 2009), the pressure to extract timber from cloud forests will mount in order to meet this burgeoning demand.
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