We’re nearly finished with our transects here. Over the past month we’ve installed fifty 50 meter x 2 meter transects, tagging all plants with a diameter greater than 1 centimeter. Today we finished the last one – 5,419 stems in all. Nearly all of these are small – seedlings, or small vines. Large plants require disproportionately more resources, so competition means that many seedlings die before they can establish themselves.
Working in this forest has brought its share of challenges. Many locations are tangled messes of lianas (woody vines) that make it impossible to stand up straight. Walking through the forest is more like playing a game of Twister. Below is our crew, stooped over and sweaty.
Here is another view of the forest – lianas going everywhere. We have to make sure we don’t double-tag or no-tag every plant. This can be an interesting challenge in places like this.
There are several challenges working here. First, many species are covered in long thorns that snag onto clothing and pierce the skin.
Second, large spiders are very common – here the golden orb weaver, Nephila clavipes. Fortunately they don’t seem to bite people, but they enjoy constructing webs at face-height.
And finally, there are many ticks that fall out of the trees and latch onto the skin. We do regular tick checks during the day but still manage to find five or ten on us by each afternoon. Most dangerous is the tick bomb – a leaf holding a cache of dozens of ticks, which (when touched) release a crawling swarm onto the arm or neck.
Nevertheless, this is a beautiful forest – only sometimes do we think that there are a few too many plants and animals in it!