Wednesday, April 08, 2009

China 2009 -8

14 February 2009 - Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanic Garden forest reserve.

The forest reserve is a pristine tropical forest that is used for research. There is quite a diversity of basal angiosperms that are present here and that was the primary reason we took this trip to Xishuangbanna.

Jim Doyle (green jacket) is a paleobotanist who works on the evolution of early flowering plants. This whole day was fun because of his excitement and enthusiasm. It was like watching a kid in a candystore that has an unlimited budget.

As with tropical forests throughout the world, you have sensory overload when you enter a place such as this. There is so much going on that you just don't know where to focus. The sounds, the smells, the layers upon layers of foliage, movement on the leaves - everything draws the eyes this way and that.

I don't know much about the early angiosperm diversification as this isn't my area of specialty, but I learned a lot by listening and watching what my colleagues were doing.

I was mostly interested in taking in the ambience of the tropical forest and I had a keen eye out for birds. I certainly heard a lot of birds, but the foliage was so thick that I couldn't spot any in the understory. I think most of what I was hearing was up in the canopy.

Fortunately, we were there during the dry season so there weren't any leeches to deal with. The forester who guided us on this excursion was covered in leech scars.

I enjoyed seeing the diversity of fungi in the forest. The bryophytes and lichens were also amazing.

Whenever I had a glimpse of the canopy, I had my binocular out, scouring the upper branches for birds. Alas! No luck here.

We walked along and in the streams to reach different areas of the reserve. It was a stunning place to spend some time.

Of course, the pace was rather slow because there was so much to see.

Every surface is covered in plants - that is so cool!

We came across a lot of quadrats and transects as well as measuring devices such as this one that tracks the growth rate of the tree trunk.

The smell of earthy decay is all about as well, which makes sense given all the evidence of termites and fungi attacking the dying trees.

What a lovely gem - I certainly have taken some design inspiration from this mushroom.

More stone stepping - at least they weren't too slick with mud.

Aha! Evidence of those canopy birds. Now, if only I could recognize the bird splats I might have a new life bird out of this excursion.

The vine going across the image is Tetrastigma - in the grape family. This is cool for me because this genus of vine is host to Rafflesia - the parasitic plant in Borneo that has a flower about one meter in diameter. No Rafflesias here, but it's cool to see the vine.

There's a lot of water in the low areas, too. One of the trails was along such a steep and slippery slope that I thought for sure I'd end up in the water. I'm sure there are leeches in there even if we didn't find any terrestrial ones.

This was near where the van was parked and I was treated to a life bird - a beautiful kingfisher that flew by just as we came up to the bridge.


The Quacks of Life said...

did you take a field guide? the only one i've seen has poor illustratios we are so spoilt!

must be a fascinating country to visit.

Andi Wolfe said...

Pete - Yes, I had a field guide to the birds of China that was published recently. The illustrations and descriptions are very good, but it's a heavy book to carry around for any length of time, even in paperback form. I've been able to identify everything I saw on the trip.

I'll have the Birds of Nepal guide with me when I go to Everest Base Camp in a few weeks. This field guide is smaller, but not nearly as complete as the one from China.