Blog for 2009-06-09

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Forest dynamics, Plant identification, CTFS-AA plot, Introduction to Phylogenetics

The Way Back From The Plot.

Forests, especially in the tropics, are fascinating! I don’t think we could ever get tired studying about what is in and what happens in tropical forests because there are so many things to be looked at. The plants, animals, and other components of the forest... they are all so cool!

The forest is not static, and it is important for us to study the changes in a forest through time (or the forest dynamic), so we can understand more about them and plan further action. How do trees in a forest grow? How is the mortality? How is the recruitment of new individuals in the community? It is somewhat funny that the idea actually came out not from a forest ecologist, but rather from forester who is actually more concerned about timber harvesting management. However, it came out to be useful for learning many things in ecological point of view.

Ways and techniques to study forest dynamics develops over time. One that we talked about today is the CTFS-AA plot. Fifty hectares of forest are plotted, and data, such as the DBH (Diameter Breast Height; 1.3 m) of trees are taken continuously. The 50 ha plots would be divided into smaller plots (20m x 20m), and the 20m x 20m plots would be divided into 5m x 5m plots. Ya... lots and lots of plots! I think we can all imagine that it’s not an easy job to do, especially after we tasted how it was like to measure the DBH of all the trees in the plots, even when it was just a few plots! Sylvester and his crew are really great to finish the entire plot in just 6 months. They measured the plant’s diameter, ID them, tagged them... great job.

Speaking about ID-ing plant, we got the chance to learn some of the basics. We tried to recognize plants from 10 different taxa (mostly family) that are most common in Lambir: Rubiaceae, Myrtales, Dipterocarpaceae, Annonaceae, Sapindales, Anacardiaceae, Clusiaceae, Moraceae, Euphorbiaceae, and Myristicaceae. It’s new for some people, but I think everyone did a very great job. It’s fun, isn’t it?

At the end of the day, we got a lecture from Rod Eastwood about “introduction to phylogenetics. It was a great lecture. I think phylogenetics study could be very complicated sometimes, but it’s a very useful tool: for taxonomy, conservation, biomedical science, etc. One that I remembered the most is the use of phylogenetics for cryptozoology, which is the study of mythical creature. It’s surprising for me that some scientists actually spend their research on mythical creature, but it’s interesting. Maybe someday I’ll do some too... on Unicorn, perhaps??? :D