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Tom is blogging on behalf of Dan Capenter...

 

We have been in Maliau for just over a week now and we have achieved a lot in that time.  As in Danum, we are doing 8 plots in the forest, using each of the six sampling/trapping methods.  We have now completed the soil pits, leaf litter samples and dead wood samples in all 8 plots.

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A view out over the forest at Maliau

 

It has been quite hard work at times.  Getting to some of the plots is really challenging, trying to follow vague trails and coping with the rugged terrain.  It can get very tiring, especially with the heat and humidity to contend with as well. But we have been to some lovely forest and we have managed to get our plots more or less where we wanted them.

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The leaves are to keep the sun out of my face for filming – honest!


The sampling has gone really well.  We have been getting lots of invertebrates in the soil and dead wood; plenty of termites and ants, plus occasional beetles, woodlice, millipedes and scorpions!  The litter sampling seems to be going well too, there are plenty of invertebrates in the samples, but quite what is in there we won’t know until we get the samples home.

 

The trapping methods have been mixed.  The Malaise traps are working very well and collecting hundreds of individuals, mostly flies (Diptera), wasps and beetles, but also moths and a few other things in there as well.  The pitfall traps have struggled with the heavy rain in some of the sites, but they too are collecting some great stuff, including the whip scorpion pictured below.

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A pitfall trap in the forest

 

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A whip scorpion from a pitfall trap


The only traps that have been a little disappointing are the SLAM traps.  They don’t have much in them. It is hard to say why this is.  I suspect it is because they are too high to trap all the things that are flying around nearer to the ground, but not high enough to trap the things that are flying around in the canopy proper.  This is an interesting result however, as it tells us something about where in the forest most of the activity might be and where it isn’t.  Despite the small numbers of invertebrates, they still occasionally trap some interesting things, like a stick insect.

 

I have really enjoyed working in the forest at Maliau and today we had a real treat. As we were all heading out to our plots this morning gibbons were spotted in the trees as we were crossing the bridge into the forest.  We have heard gibbons calling every morning since we arrived in Maliau and sometimes they have been very close without us being able to see them. Today we were lucky though and saw them clearly, swinging through the trees.  It was a fantastic sight and definitely a highlight for me.

 

So we have two more plots to visit to take our traps down, one day to pack up all of our samples and equipment and then we leave Maliau on Friday to start our journey back to the UK. It has been a long trip and I for one am quite tired.  It has been hard work, a great experience, and we have done some fantastic science. But I am looking forward to getting home and getting started on sorting and identifying the material we have sampled. That is when the real work begins!

 

Dan Carpenter

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Tom is blogging on behalf of Dan Carpenter

 

I thought I would fill you in on some of the other work that is taking place here in Sabah during the trip. Soil biodiversity is not the only thing being studied. We have been accompanied throughout by Holger Thüs and Pat Wolseley, two lichenologists from the Museum.

 

Pat and Holger worked with us on our New Forest project surveying the lichens of both the terrestrial and freshwater habitats.  The collaboration was so successful that we were very pleased that they could join us on the Borneo trip.

 

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A lichen quadrat on a tree

 

They are using the same sampling technique here in Sabah as that which they used in the New Forest. In each plot (the same plot we sample invertebrates in) they select 12 trees and put a quadrat on the trunk. They then record the lichen species and their frequency on the tree.  They do this for four sides of each of the twelve trees.  Additionally they also collect five leaves from plants around each tree that have lichens on them.

 

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Lichenologists at lunch

 

They have used the same method in Danum, SAFE and Maliau, so they will be able to directly compare the lichens that they have found in each site.  This will tell them (amongst other things) what effect deforestation has on lichen diversity and how many species are in common between two primary forest reserves (Danum and Maliau) and how many are unique to one or the other. Combined with our invertebrate data this will gives us a lot of information about the three sites we have visited.

 

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A large leaf-like lichen

 

Many of you may be familiar with lichens from walls or trees that you have seen around your homes or places of work.  But closer inspection is a must to appreciate the delicate beauty of these organisms. They take myriad forms, such as a writing-like pattern, branching patterns, leaf-like lichens and even ones that look like small volcanoes. A good magnifying glass or hand lens will help you to see them more closely.

 

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Lichen frog

 

One of the joys of working with, and occasionally helping, Pat and Holger is discovering some of the animals that mimic lichens for camouflage.  I have included photos of a frog and an insect which I think is a member of Orthoptera (grasshoppers and others), but I have never seen anything like so I am not sure! We have also found a small spider hiding on one of the leaves Holger collected.  You can see how well they are adapted to life on lichen covered trees.

 

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Insect (Orthoptera?) using lichen camouflage


You will hear more about lichens via Charlotte’s Nature Live blog, so check that soon.

 

Dan Carpenter

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Tom is blogging on behalf of Tom Carpenter...

 

There are a lot of insects and other invertebrates in a tropical rainforest. All of them are beautiful in their own ways, but some have that wow factor. They come in all different shapes and sizes, from those barely the size of a full stop on this page, to those as large as the palm of my hand. Here are some photos of some of the more impressive invertebrates that we have encountered in Borneo.

 

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The magnificent male rhinoceros beetle

 

Many of the bigger insects we have seen come to the lights of the dining halls, both here at Maliau but also in Danum. This Rhinoceros beetle is a member of the Scarabaeoidea, the dung beetles and chafers. This magnificent male flew rather haphazardly into the dining hall at Maliau and crashed into the wall. It uses those large horns to grapple with other males to get the best spots for attracting a mate. Another frequent visitor to the dining halls of Maliau and Danum is the Lyssa moth. Its wingspan is about 20 cm.

 

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The moth is Lyssa zampa (Uraniidae)

 

This bizarre but beautiful creature is a member of the Family Fulgoridae, in the Order Hemiptera, the true bugs. It has a long nose, big eyes and is a beautiful green colour. Generally, Hemiptera feed on plants.

 

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A Folgorid bug

 

We have seen a couple of different types of millipedes. The first picture is of one I found on the road in Danum one morning on my way to breakfast. This one was as long as my foot!

 

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Millipede found on the road at Danum

 

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Pill millipede found at SAFE

 

The second is of one we found in one of our SAFE plots. This one can roll up into an almost perfect ball.

 

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Flat backed (Polydesmida) millipede

 

The third is a Polydesmid millipede and has a flat back. If you rub this one it smells like almonds due to a cyanide like poison it exudes from its back. One not to be licked!

 

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Camponotus gigas ants fighting over a cricket

 

This photos shows two members of one of the largest species of ants in the world, Camponotus gigas, fighting over a cricket. These ants are everywhere in the forest and quite happily wander over us and our equipment in search of food. They might look intimidating, but they are not aggressive and run away if you try and touch them.

 

I hope this gives a flavour of some of the more charismatic invertebrates of Borneo.

 

Dan Carpenter

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Tom is blogging on behalf of Dan Carpenter...

 

A five hour drive from the SAFE project area is the Maliau Basin Conservation Area. Maliau Basin is exactly that, a large steep sided basin, the centre of which has been eroded by several rivers. At its highest point it reaches 1650 metres above sea level. The height and form of the basin means several different forest types grow at the different elevations, from lowland dipterocarp forest to montane forest at the very top.

 

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The bridge into the forest

 

The main aim of our time here in Maliau is to sample in the lowland dipterocarp forest. Dipterocarps are a type of big forest tree that has winged seeds. This is the same forest type as at Danum and allows us to compare what we find in the two areas. We are interested in the extent to which the species in these two forest reserves are the same, or whether each reserve has species that are unique to it. We are also able to explore how varied each forest block is by sampling several times in the same area.

 

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The roots of a huge forest tree

 

We are staying at the Maliau Basin Study Centre. We feel as if we have arrived in a posh resort, given how comfortable and well equipped the centre is. We almost have the place to ourselves. Keiron is very pleased with the food, which has been excellent.

 

3.JPGOur Winkler bags hanging under one of the camp buildings

 

The forest is lovely. There are so many big trees which is wonderful to see after being in SAFE. The morning air is filled with the sound of gibbons calling from the tree tops. We haven’t seen as much wildlife here as the forest is so thick you can’t see very far at all at times. But we have heard lots!

 

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The laboratory building

 

We have started on our plots and it has proved challenging to reach them at times. The trail system seems a bit haphazard and there are no maps of where they all go, so we have been forging through the forest as best as we can. It has felt we are exploring new ground at times until we come upon another trail and find a much easier way back to camp.

 

5.JPGOne of our SLAM traps hanging in the forest.

 

We have just over a week left here at Maliau. Plenty of time to explore the forest further and to share with you some of the other things we have seen and done, so check back for more!

 

Dan Carpenter

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SAFE and sound

Posted by Tom - Nature Live host Oct 11, 2012

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

Dan Carpenter