Denis Drouin’s Diary
Climate Change, Canopies and Wildlife in the Ecuadorian Andes

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September 27, 2009: Habitat assessment

DenWalkingup I pick up this job today because of what's written on the planning board: ”LONG WALK”. I’m the oldest expedition fellow here but I’m also in the group of people who are in very good physical shape. Even more, I really enjoy walking in the forest, and if we engage in this activity it is for two days. Today I will work with Miguel and Edison, both botanists from Quito University, Ann, a Canadian fellow like me, Antony Flint from UK, and James, an Ecuadorian volunteer. We are asked to be at the lodge early at 06:00 for breakfast. A three-hour walk in steep up and down mountain trails is needed to DenEating reach the  first working area. We are going to bring lunchboxes with us. The goal is to survey two or three ten-meter diameter circles. Miguel will pick the sites, which are good representative forest areas. We divide after that, and mark each circle into four quadrants. Each volunteer will choose a quadrant to survey. He also will choose the most representative tree within his respective quadrant on which to answer many survey questions (around 50). Here are some of the questions: 1) What is the percentage of ground cover by dead leaves? 2) What is the percentage of ground covered by living plants Heliconia from 0 to 1 meter high? 3) How many individual bromeliads cover each quadrant? 4) What is the percentage of epiphytes which covering each quadrant? And so on! It is very interesting. By the time we (volunteers) are answering Edison's surveyEdisonHabitatAssessment  questions, Miguel is looking in the circle to find new or rare species. He also collects samples which will be stored in the "National Herbarium of Ecuador (click to download a PowerPoint)." The National Herbarium of Ecuador 
has the monumental task of discovering, collecting and cataloguing the plant species of Ecuador. The work of the Herbarium means that the diversity of plant life can be truly appreciated. After three different habitat assessments we are all happy to head back to the lodge for an excellent dinner. Remember that all this data will be put into a computer for further analysis and comparison. If scientists measure and know what’s happening, it is much easier to predict the future and the action to be taken in order to maintain sustainability.

Click image to enlarge.