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Tropical botany researcher

3 Posts tagged with the oak tag
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Well no valentine’s day cards…sniff. Tom from Nature Live has been showing off his card for the last week and I was tempted to write one for myself. Today was another beautiful day though; bright blue skies and a light breeze.

 

After having separated into two groups for the past three days it felt good for us all to be working together again. We walked along the river on a very accident-inducing, slippery trail, with stunning views every few minutes.

 

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(Click images to see them full size)

 

Our site for the day was an area of ‘turbera’ or peat bog - an open expanse of lichen dominated ground with scattered tree ferns (Blechnum buchtienii) around whose base are even more lichens, epiphytes and shrubs.

 

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Overlooking the bog was a loan, probably a dead oak tree, which despite having died is home to a mini forest of it’s own on each branch. I spent more time than I should have trying to work out how many species were in the tree and the logistics of climbing up to collect them.

 

 

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It was hard work pressing in the bright sun but we collected 58 species of vascular plants and Holger and Jo made some more fantastic aquatic lichen and moss discoveries.

 

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It makes a real difference having the perspective of a different group of organisms. Holger was able to identify substantial amounts of basalt rock in the river bed which helps keep the pH close to neutral and so favour a rich and perse lichen community. This also gives us some clues to the history of these mountains.

 

He also very conveniently measures the temperature of the river (12°C) which encouraged me to have a quick dip before we headed back to camp.

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Our first day's collecting

Posted by Alex Monro Feb 13, 2012

We left camp at 7.30 am on 9 February to go and collect at a point we had identified the day before, a large open flat area of inundated soils and swamp with very few - but very large - oak trees festooned with mosses, orchids, bromeliads and even small trees.

 

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‘El Plano’ our first field site

 

Each day we collect for the same number of hours within a radius of 100 m from a specific point. Most of the points have been located through a combination of satellite images and a ground survey undertaken three weeks ago.

 

This should enable us to compare the species composition of each of our sample points and maybe to identify some of the factors that determine the species persity in the Talamanca Mountains. Over the past nine years we have surveyed over 150 such points and so today’s point can be compared to these.

 

The species we found today were pretty much as expected so nothing very exciting. We did, however, collect a beautiful pink-flowered tree called Styrax warscewiczii, a species found from Mexico to Bolivia above 1,800 m altitude.

 

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Styrax warscewiczii

 

When we got back to camp two snail and slug specialists from a local Costa Rican university, who are staying with us, had been sampling leaf litter all day and had found some very small but beautiful snails and slugs, many of which they had never seen before! It seems that this area is very important for snails and slug persity.

 

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Slug from the Arionidae / Limacidae group:
possibly a new record for Costa Rica, maybe even a new species

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Some familiar faces

Posted by Alex Monro Feb 10, 2012

It is 7 pm and I am in my sleeping bag as it is already really cold. Today we walked from our temporary camp where we spent last night up to our main camp in ‘El Valle de Silencio’ at 2,500 m. At this altitude we are in oak forest where the trees are up to 50 m in height, festooned with epiphytes, lichens and mosses and with a groundstory dominated by bamboo.

 

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Oak tree with Tom Simpson of Nature Live for scale

 

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View of oak forest interior

 

It occurred to me as we were walking through the forest that a surprising number of the trees we were seeing would be familiar in a forest back home: oak (Quercus), alder (Alnus), holly (Ilex), buckthorn (Rhamnus) and Cherry (Prunus), not the same species of course, but the same genera.

 

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Quercus costaricensis

 

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Rhamnus sp.

 

As I sit huddled in my sleeping bag I realise that there is a certain affinity with the climate back home too and also a physical one as many of these species, or at least their ancestors would have come from North America at a time when there was a land-bridge between our Continent and North America. So presumably these high elevation forests were colonised by trees coming from North America rather than South America, a phenomenon documented already by several authors.