Blog for 2009-07-08

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Maliau hike, day 1 (Agathis to Camel Trophy hut)

I felt better after a sound sleep at last night in the heavy rain mid night, but warmth of the blanket. We had the breakfast in the dining room, hopefully to get enough energy from the last formal breakfast for four days. We left the Study center with the morning mist, through the muddy car track marched by dung piles of Bos javanicus. We hanged around the Agathis camp for a while looking for the specimens for the focal taxa and chatting about the task for next few days. After sharing of packed lunch, a group photo! to ensure the people start hike. Lauren, Hardy, Jefry, Habrin joined with us as our guides in the dense forest to find our way. We started the walk through Lowland Dipterocarp Forests. Giant Dipterocarpus, Shorea, Parashorea and Agathis species together with woody climbers reached to top of the canopy, which was not permitted to penetrate enough sun light to the wet forest floor filled with layers of leaf litter. The characteristic warm moist air in this diverse forest made the reality role of South East Asian Tropical rain forest in Borneo. Numerous bracket fungi, coral fungi and various other fungi along the foot path implied the necessity of detritivores to the dense ecosystems to manage forever. Butterflies, moths, millipedes, centipedes, grass hoppers and crickets, spiders, not only invertebrates but also birds states us, rainforest organisms are most brightly colored among terrestrial animal phyla. We walked across valleys and through gullies which formed by the drain water. Pretty bird calls in the lower strata of the jungle disturbed by occasional harsh calls of Helmeted Hornbills. Borneon Gibbon added the value of primates to the forest making loud noise. We had the lunch enjoying the scenic beauty of the panoramic view of the Maliau Basin Mountains. Slowly but surely we entered to quite flat land which was more spacious and lighted and the giants of the forest are sparse. Mosses, lichens and epiphytic orchids covered the tree trunks. Yes, we were in a transition zone, what would be next? we were so excited. We suddenly entered to a totally different ecosystem. The land is more or less flat and uncovered soil was comprised fine white sand particles resembling the upliftment of this land, being a sandy beach millions years ago. Thus the soil is very poor in nutrient conditions. All plants of this ecosystem had adaptations to recover in poor nutrient conditions, but the trees are usually with a small girth. The crowns of trees were small, therefore much of the sunlight fall to the ground, lighten the forest. Bird calls were not common showing the less productivity of nectar and fruit. Pitcher plants were very common since they have the ability to extract amino acids from animal materials for their needs. Base of the trees covered with mosses. Still the air is humid and warm. The color of the water of the streams was most impressive; for the protection from the herbivory most of the plants store tannin in their fleshy leaves which turns the color of the water to pale brown. Exactly we have entered to the unique Heath forest ecosystem locally known as “ KERANGAS”. Ultimately we came to our halt of the night “The Camel Trophy Hut” located in the KERANGAS. The tree hut on the Agathis borneensis was a thrilling event situated above 30 m from the ground. The night was not calm in Camel Trophy Hut. Aces and Queens in cards, Knights and bishops on chess board played with us till late night, forgetting the tomorrow mission.