About Our Nature Reserve
Selva Negra's nature reserve consists of over 300 acres of secondary and primary cloud forest.
Cloud forests, unlike rainforests, have two major sources of water: rain and condensation of water from low clouds, sometimes called horizontal rain. Horizontal rain occurs when warm moist air is forced upward by the topography of the region and cools. Clouds form in the canopy and water condenses on the leaves. In a cloud forest, the trees and their epiphytes act as sponges, trapping moisture from the air and transferring it to the biosphere. On average, a cloud forest receives about 5% to 15% of its annual moisture as horizontal rain but it can be as high as 60%. Once the moisture has been collected, the canopy traps it with its thick layer of vegetation preventing evaporative loss. It also shades the forest floor reducing evaporation. Cloud forests are a vital water sources for areas downstream. During the dry season, moisture collected by cloud forests may be the only source of water down stream. When a cloud forest is cut it is very difficult to recover because the moisture cycle has been broken. It loses much of its annual moisture input and water retention ability without a mature canopy to collect water and shade the ground.
What is a cloud forest?
Selva Negra Ecolodge is located within a unique type of rainforest, it is categorized as a cloud rainforest, becuase most of its moisture comes from the cloud density dropping within the vegetation instead of rainfall itself. As state by Wikipedia: "A cloud forest, also called a fog forest, is a generally tropical or subtropical evergreen montane moist forest characterized by a persistent, frequent or seasonal low-level cloud cover, usually at the canopy level. Cloud forests often exhibit an abundance of mosses covering the ground and vegetation, in which case they are also referred to as mossy forests. Mossy forests usually develop on the saddles of mountains, where moisture introduced by settling clouds is more effectively retained."
Things to see...
More than half of the world's species of plants and animals are found in the rainforest and cloud forests around the world. They support a very broad array of fauna including mammals, reptiles, birds, and invertebrates. Mammals may include primates, felids, and other families. Reptiles include snakes, turtles, chameleons, and other families while birds include such families as vangidae and Cuculidae. Dozens of families of invertebrates are found in rainforests (including beetles). Fungi are also very common in rainforest areas as they can feed on the decomposing remains of plant and animal life. These species are rapidly disappearing due to deforestation, habitat loss, and biochemical releases into the atmosphere.
Within the primary and secondary rainforest at the nature reserve we'd conducted a minimal study of the various tree species. Please review our list for details. We hope to continue and complete this list but need professional studies done that have yet to happen. For now, enjoy the beginning of the list. The most prominent of these trees is the strangler fig. The strangler fig (Ficus obtusifolia) begins its life as a small epiphyte, eventually growing into a tree that can reach 50 meters in height. The strangler is often considered one of the most important plant species of a rainforest ecosystem due to its ability to provide food and shelter for such a diverse population. Its seeds, often dispersed by birds, germinate in crevices or on branches atop various host trees. These seedlings grow downward and slowly envelop the roots of the host by competing for water and nutrients. Simultaneously the strangler begins to grow upwards in competition for sunlight, eventually growing a thicker canopy than its host. Over time, the support tree dies leaving the hollow strangler fig, or "columnar". The columnar then produces fruit, provides shade and offers a home to several species of invertebrates, rodents, birds, reptiles and amphibians. The fig tree is considered a keystone species due to its ability to bear fruit at several times throughout the year. This tasty fruit becomes a main food source for nearly 70% of the forests inhabitants. Although Strangler figs maybe seem abundant, it is important to preserve this unique species in order to maintain a thriving, healthy and happy cloud forest.
The orchid is a flower, usually an epiphyte, found frequently on large trees such as the Strangler Fig. The orchid depends on a fungus called mycorrhizae to control the uptake of water and nutrients in its roots. The mycorrhizae then receives some of the sugars from that plant, demonstrating an entirely mutualistic relationship with its host orchid. The orchid reproduces through cross-pollination with the help of insects. Charles Darwin observed in 1862 that many orchids actually resemble the backsides of female bees, attracting males to unintentionally pollinate them. At Selva Negra you will find wild orchids all over, including on the roofs of many bungalows. We have an unofficial orchiderium, it is a work in progress and the orchids are not yet labeled, but you can wonder about and see the wide variety of orchids that we host, there will inevitably be at least a couple in bloom.
Selva Negra maintains more than 20 km of hiking trails through the forest reserve, and large fruiting trees are found throughout the production area, which is mixedlevel shade coffee. Most of the forest lies between 1300 and 1500 meters, and the property is situated along the continental divide between the Pacfic and Atlantic lowlands. Because of this unique location,the bird community represents a mix of both Pacific and Atlantic-slope bird species, as well as mountain species whose ranges extend south from Mexico. Several marshy ponds around the farm provide additional habitat diversity. Please review our bird list where the most common species are in boldface.
Butterflies are abundant all around the estate at Selva Negra, the list provided was a study done by Jen Michael Maes, Entomologist Museum of Leon. The study was done of the Arenal Reserve in general, which Selva Negra is a major part of.
The list of amphibians are reptiles foung here was prepared by Gunther Köhler, Dr. Kohler is the curator of the famous Research Institute and Natural History Museum Senckenberg at Frankfurt, Germany. Two hundred and thirty two species of amphibians and reptiles are presently reported from Nicaragua (Köhler 2001, Köhler et al. 2004). Additional collecting, especially in previously inaccessible areas, and detailed studies of the flora and fauna of Nicaragua is likely to result in the discovery of new species and new country records. During several stays between the years 1995 and 2002 at Selva Negra, 19 species of amphibians and 33 species of reptiles were documented. He estimate that the actual total number of amphibians and reptiles at Selva Negra comprises some 60-65 species. Therefore, more than 25 percent of the total number of amphibian and reptile species of the country are expected to live in the rainforest of this nature reserve.
The cloud forest is filled with decaying material, and who better to help convert it back to organic material than the insects of our world. Beetles being a major part of this class, we were luck to have Mr. Paul Kaufman and his team accumulated this list after a stay at Selva Negra in May & June of 2005. As stated by Kaufman "There are a number of unusual specimens in the material that we collected last year, including some that are possible new species." As it turned out one was a new species, Mr. Kaufman and Weston Opitz from Kansas Wesleyan University have spent significant time studying the beetles in the forest of Selva Negra, and have verified the existence of a new species. Mr. Opitz states "I have named a new species of checkered beetle Amboakis kuhlorum (umlau included) in honor of you and your wife in appreciation for your efforts of preserving Nicaraguan Natural History."
Mammals are the animals that cause the greatest of attention to themselves. Starting with the howler monkey that might wake you up in the morning, or use the trees over your bungalow to get from place to place; to the agouti that forgets it is a watched species, although not yet endangered.