Skip navigation

Borneo biodiversity blog

3 Posts tagged with the malaise_traps tag

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.



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.



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!



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


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.




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.


Dan Carpenter


There are several ways to sample insects and other invertebrates and the Quantitative Inventory (QI) team are using six of them! The QI team is visiting three different areas of lowland tropical rainforest during this visit to Sabah and we will be sampling in Danum Valley Conservation Area, the SAFE project area and in Maliau Basin Conservation Area.


Both Danum and Maliau are old growth (primary) forest reserves and are good examples of lowland tropical forest. We will be able to compare the invertebrates we find in these two reserves and discover how many species they have in common and how many are unique to one reserve or the other.


Bridge into the forestA river in the forest

(Click images to see them full sized)


By doing this we will be able to tell how many reserves are necessary to conserve all of the diversity found in tropical rainforests. If the reserves have exactly the same species then only one is necessary. But if they have completely different species then two reserves are necessary to retain all of the diversity. Obviously, this is only true for the species we are sampling and this may not be the case for a wide range of other species, e.g. birds, plants, reptiles and so on.




The SAFE project is rather different. This is an area of forest that has already been logged. Much of the forest here is due to be cut down to make way for oil palm plantations. However, some fragments of the forest will be left and this will allow scientists to study the impact that fragmentation has on forest areas. We will be sampling in the areas that will be left behind once the logging takes place later this year; we hope to come back in 5 years and repeat our sampling to find out what has happened to the species in these forests during that period.


In each of these sites we will be sampling in eight, one hectare plots. In each plot we use six methods to sample insects. Three of our methods are done along a 100 m transect through the middle of the plot. Every 7 m we dig a hole and take out any invertebrates we find in there. Termites, beetle larvae and ants are generally what we find in soil.




We also sieve a square metre of litter every 7 m and hang the resulting sieved litter in a Winkler bag. This contraption dries out the litter and, as it does so, the invertebrates fall out of it and collect in a pot below. We have 75 of these Winkler bags hanging up at Danum! In litter, ants and beetles are the most abundant insects.




Along 50 m of the transect we also sample dead wood. Any dead wood that the transect crosses, we break open and remove any invertebrates we find. Again termites and ants are the most common, but also centipedes and scorpions have been found so far.


The other three methods are trapping methods. The first are pitfall traps. These consist of plastic pint glasses buried in the ground so that the opening is flush with the soil surface. Insects run along the ground and fall into the pit. We then come along three days later, empty them out to see what we find. They have been full of ants and cockroaches so far.






We also have two types of Malaise traps. One type is put up at ground level and the other is pulled up in to the lower part of the trees. Both of these traps work by having a barrier that insects fly into. The insects then fly upwards into a funnel and eventually into a pot at the top. These traps are excellent at collecting flies and parasitic wasps (Hymenoptera), but also collect beetles.




Using these methods we collect a lot of material. This material will eventually make it back to the Museum in London so that we can begin to sort and identify it.


Dan Carpenter