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Borneo biodiversity blog

5 Posts tagged with the nature_live tag
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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 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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On Saturday 15 September, Andy Polaszek and Paul Eggleton were among the scientists asked to present their Borneo-based research to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during their South-East Asian tour. Andy and Paul were able to explain to the Royal couple the aims of the Museum project, which clearly resonated with them. They were particularly interested in the educational and public outreach of the project, and it was satisfying to tell them about the different activities we have that link back to schools and the public in the UK with the Nature Live team.

 

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William-and-Andy-shaking-hands.jpgAndy Polaszek (check shirt) and Paul Eggleton (hidden) presents the research being performed in Borneo to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
(Click images to see them full size)

 

As well as Andy and Paul representing the Museum, other organisations taking part were Raleigh International, Oxford University, Earthwatch, Imperial College and the local Sabah Foundation, Yayasan Sabah. The Royal visit was largely facilitated and organised by Danum Valley’s Senior Scientist Dr Glen Reynolds.

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Welcome to Borneo 2012

Posted by Andrew Polaszek Sep 9, 2012

Borneo-rainforest-700x463.jpgOver the course of late September and October many of the Museum's researchers will be in Borneo to study the flora and fauna on the island. The Museum has a history of leading several successful Borneo-based science projects and this time, we will be documenting the effort in this blog.

 

As the 3rd largest island in the world, Borneo is well-known as a centre of extreme faunistic and floristic diversity, and endemism (i.e. uniqueness to a defined location, such as an island). It is certain that the majority of that diversity and endemism remains to be discovered and documented, in particular the "microfauna", especially in the soils, the forest canopy and freshwater systems. Vast areas of the island are currently being irreversibly altered due mainly to timber extraction and cultivation of oil palm, these two activities often being connected.

 

A team of 15 biologists from the Museum are traveling to Sabah, Malaysian North Borneo, in September and October this year, to carry out field work in this major biodiversity hotspot. We will be studying and collecting insects, other invertebrates and plant samples using a variety of quantitative and qualitative methods. The qualitative sampling is designed to complement an ongoing 10-year study of soil biodiversity in the New Forest in England, and the Borneo work will provide valuable comparative data on the distribution and abundance of key organisms in tropical and temperate forest systems. In Sabah we will be sampling in the Danum Valley and Maliau Basin, as well as working with the Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems (SAFE) project which is examining the effects of deforestation, extraction and palm oil (and other) cultivation on biodiversity.

 

Taxa collected will be a combination of relatively well-known species that can be identified, and less well-known groups that will require a combined morphology/barcoding/molecular probe approach to characterise. The data resulting will support all Museum quantitative inventory projects, in particular the aforementioned New Forest QI project, enabling direct comparison of landscape level biodiversity between tropical and temperate areas.

 

This trip is multidisciplinary, involving researchers from across the Museum’s Life Sciences departments and local collaborators, particularly from the University of Malaysia Sabah (UMS) in Kota Kinabalu. We are especially concentrating on public engagement, with the Museum’s Nature Live team involved in several live link-up events, including ones to UK schools in the Museum’s Attenborough Studio. In particular, Dan Carpenter’s team will be accompanied by members of Nature Live in October for broadcasts back to the Museum from the field.

 

We hope you enjoy following our trip to Borneo and you can also keep in touch with the Nature Live coverage (and read about their previous trips to the Bahamas and Costa Rica) in the Field work with Nature Live blog.

 

Andy Polaszek and Dan Carpenter