Tom is blogging on behalf of Dan Carpenter...
I haven’t posted for a few days now. This is mostly because we have been in the middle of nowhere without an internet connection. But now that I have access I thought I would update you on what we have been doing since we left Danum Valley Conservation Area.
After a night in a very nice hotel in Tawau, we left for the SAFE project. The SAFE (Sustainable Altered Forest Ecosystems) project seeks to understand the effect of fragmentation and deforestation on biodiversity. The project is based in a large area of already logged forest. Much of the forest that remains is being turned into oil palm plantations. The project will retain forest fragments of different sizes to see what affect different fragment sizes have on biodiversity.
Our original plan was to spend our time in a satellite camp and sample in an area of logged forest that is acting as a control site for the fragments. We thought that the logging had already taken place, but in fact it hadn’t. So instead we decided to go to the main camp and sample in the plots that will become the fragments. This was a great opportunity for us to get some baseline data for how the plots are before the fragmentation occurs, so that we can return afterwards to see what has changed.
This had the added advantage of meaning we stayed in the main SAFE camp, rather than the satellite camp, which had been described by seasoned field campaigners as ‘very leechy’. I was pleased not to have to experience just how leechy it was!
The main SAFE camp was rather nice if basic. It consisted of colourful tarpaulins stretched over wooden frames, which served as kitchen, dining room, laboratory space and sleeping areas. The beds were made by stretching a thick tarp between two poles with a mosquito net suspended above. It doesn’t sound much but they were very comfortable. I slept better there than I did at Danum, even if it did get quite cold at night. Washing facilities were great, a river and a scoop! It was lovely to wallow in the river after a hot day out in the field.
The ‘forest’ was challenging to work in at times. We were driven to each of the plots by local research assistants who would show us the way from the road into the centre of the plots. This often involved a lot of walking along very steep and slippery trails. The plots were very disturbed due to logging, with few big trees and lots of undergrowth, including spiny rattans which have very sharp spines designed to make you stay put. New Zealanders call them ‘stay a-whiles’ and you have little choice if you become entangled in one.
We spent ten days in SAFE and sampled in six 10-hectare plots. However, we were keen to move onto Maliau to get back into pristine old growth forest, which offers much more for both the lichenologists and soil biologists. And that is where we now are. There will be much more from Maliau, both from me and from the Nature Live team who arrived at the start of this week, so look out for it.