Monday, 4 August 2014

First Island Biology conference, Honolulu, Hawaii 7-11 july 2014


The University of Hawaii at Manoa (Honolulu, Hawai’i) hosted the very first international conference on "Island Biology" from July 7th - 11th. As indicated in the opening session by the conference chair Donald Drake (University of Hawaii at Manoa) and co-chairs José-Maria Fernandez-Palacios (La Laguna University, Canary Islands) and Christoph Kueffer (ETH Zürich), the conference was organized in response to the major new wave of island biological research being done in diverse fields, to the incredible pace at which data are being generated on islands around the world, and the need to build up on that momentum and strengthen the emergence of a truly global island research community. This will be luckily the first of a regular series of meetings that will be held every three or four years, at which island biologists can come together, share insights, and develop collaborations that will accelerate the pace and effectiveness of island research and conservation.

The conference gathered ca. 400 participants and 250 presenters from more than 35 countries; 170 talks were given in 33 concurrent sessions and 78 posters were presented in one dedicated session.

The opening ceremony was held on Monday the 7th, followed by plenary talks on the birth, development and importance of island biology, given successively by Ann Sakai (University of California, Irvine), Rosemary Gillespie (University of California, Berkeley), Peter and Rosemary Grant (Princeton University, New Jersey), Robert Ricklefs (University of Missouri, St Louis), and by some Hawaiian reflections by Dieter Mueller Dombois (UH, Honolulu) and Sheila Connant (UH, Honolulu).
The different sessions started on Tuesday the 8th. Ravahere presented a poster in the poster session held during the afternoon, dealing with the forest structure, composition and dynamics along the altitudinal gradient set up on mount Aorai for the “MOVECLIM” project. He received some good feedbacks from the audience, fruitful comments and interesting questions (Photo 1). 
Photo1: Poster entitled "Forest structure, composition and  dynamics along a temperature and humidity gradient in the island of Tahiti (South Pacific)
On Thursday the 10th, during a session dedicated to climate change, Jean-Yves Meyer gave a talk on the patterns of fern diversity and abundance along the same elevational gradient. He highlighted the fact that ferns and their allies are taxa of high taxonomical and ecological importance on islands, playing key roles in ecosystem dynamics (e.g. primary and secondary successions after natural and anthropogenic disturbances), but often under-studied thus should received more attention. He suggested that similar transects should be done in other islands to have a more global view of patterns of diversity and changes in abundances and distribution ranges, especially in regard to the potential effects of climate change. 
In the same session, Rosalina Gabriel presented preliminary results on the first inter island comparisons for the Moveclim project including 5 islands. Her talk was entitled 'Variation in bryophyte community structure at different spatial scales along five elevational gradients in islands (Photo 2).

Photo 2:  Rosalina Gabriel presenting the preliminary results for bryophytes.
A poster from Claudine Ah-Peng presenting the MOVECLIM project and network was also shown during this conference (Photo 3)
Photo 3: Rosalina Gabriel and Jean Yves Meyer, Moveclim collaborators.



We had the opportunity to visit the Bernice Puahi Bishop Museum and were offered guided tours by Museum staff and curators to the numerous natural and cultural collections on Thursday afternoon. The day was closed by a planetarium show on Polynesian voyaging followed by a traditional dinner held in the museums garden.
The conference ended Friday afternoon with discussions about the opportunity and feasibility to create a new society (“Island Biology International Society”), a new scientific journal (“Island Biology”) and a website. Three archipelagoes were proposed as potential sites for the next Island Biology conference, the Seychelles, the Azores and the Canary Islands, praised in 5 minute talks by their representatives, respectively Gérard Rocamora (University of Seychelles), Paulo Borges (Universidad dos Azores), and José Maria Fernandez-Palacios (La Laguna University, Canary Islands).
Pre- and post-conference fieldtrips were also organized on the island of O'ahu as well as on the other Hawaiian Islands (Kaua’i and Maui). Jean-Yves and Rava attended a one day trip organized by Tom Ranker and Clifford Morden (University of Hawaii at Manoa) in the Waianae Range on Sunday the 6th, along the trail to mount Palikea (ca. 945m asl) located on the north west side of O'ahu. 

We were able to observe rare and threatened endemic plant species along the trail, as well as restoration and conservation projects (e.g. exclosures) managed by the Nature Conservancy Hawaii, and an alien slug control program led by Stephanie Joe (O'ahu Army Natural Ressource Program / Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit, UH) in that area. Jean-Yves joined the 3 days field-trip to Kaua’i led by Don Drake, including a 6 hours hike crossing the high elevation Alaka’i swamp at ca. 1200 m dominated by the small sedge Oreobolus furcatus…also found in Tahiti and restricted to its highest summit, Mount Orohena, at 2241 m (Photo 4)! More photos of plants of this ecosystem: 

Photo 4: Alaka'i swamp, 1200 m



Ravahere Taputuarai, Jean-Yves Meyer & Rosalina Gabriel

Photo credit: JYM



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Tuesday, 11 February 2014

3rd field trip in the Azores: Flores Island, 29/07 – 01/08/2013

In order to gather some more data on the bryoflora of the remaining Azorean islands with significant patches of native vegetation, an expedition following the methodology of the Moveclim project took place in Flores Island (Azores) along an elevational gradient, between the 29th July and 1st of August 2012. The team was composed of Márcia Coelho, Débora Henriques and Fernando Pereira, with the help of Diogo Silva.
The weather was generally good, except one rainy day, allowing the fieldwork to proceed within 4 days. Five altitudes were sampled along the gradient from 70 m to 800 m (Figure 1). The transect was set up along the north side of the island, that includes an Protected Area for Habitat or Species Management and a Protected Area of Resource Management. In Flores Island, the uplands and wetlands of the Central Highlands contains one of the largest and best preserved bog Atlantic associated with Juniperus brevifolia forest, essential to the hydric balance of the island.
Fig.1: Map of the localities sampled at five different elevations.
We briefly describe here the sampling sites and illustrate the gradient with some photographs:
70 m – Ponta do Ilhéu (Fig. 2)
Plot 1 coordinates: N39°30'22,8''; W31°11'40,3''
Plot 2 coordinates: N39°30'22,4''; W31°11'40,6''
Fig.2: Vegetation type in the lowland of Flores (D. Henriques)

Vegetation is dominated by Picconia azorica, Pittosporum undulatum and Morella faya. The canopy is high, average 5,2 m. Bryophytes cover similarly soil, rocks and trunks between 5 and 25%. 
200 m – Caminho para Ponta Delgada (Fig. 3)
Plot 1 coordinates: N 39°30'24,8''; W 31°12'46,3''
Plot 2 coordinates: N 39°30'23,8''; W 31°12'45,9''
Fig.3: Atrichum sp. mixed with Fissidens sp on the ground (M. Coelho)

At this step, we found native trees like Erica azorica, Vaccinium cylindraceum, Juniperus brevifolia and Morella faya, and the non-native Pittosporum undulatum. The maximum height of the canopy was 5,8 m.  There were more bryophytes (25%) on rocks than on soil or tree trunks.

400 m – Outeiros (Fig. 4)
Plot 1 coordinates: N 39°30'06,9''; W 31°12'20,1''
Plot 2 coordinates: N 39°30'06,6''; W 31°12'20,1''
Fig.4: Team on the field in Ponta do Ilhéu (F. Pereira)
Forest system; the canopy is higher (maximum of 6,2 m). However half of the vegetation is formed by Pittosporum undulatum and there are also large Hedychium gardnerianum plants. Native species such as Erica azorica, Picconia azorica, Laurus azorica, Morella faya and Vaccinium cylindraceum were also present but in lower abundance (15-40%). Bryophytes cover was higher in trunks (ca. 60%), but significantly present on soil (ca. 40%).



600 m – Ribeira do Cascalho (Fig. 5)
Plot 1 coordinates: N 39°28'58,1''; W 31°11'25,5''
Plot 2 coordinates: N 39°28'57,6''; W 31°11'25,2''
Fig.5: Sphagnum sp. and Polytrichum sp. cover the soil on Ribeira do Cascalho (D. Henriques)


Forest system with trees up to 3,9 m high. Forest vegetation is dominated by Juniperus brevifolia (90%), being called Zimbral. Vaccinium cylindraceum, Ilex perado subsp. azorica, Laurus azorica and Myrsine africana were also present but in lower amounts, 30%, 25%, 15% and 25% respectively. Cover of bryophytes is predominant on the soil (80%) and on trees (80%).


800 m – Morro Alto (Fig. 6)

Plot 1 coordinates: N 39°27'47,5''; W 31°13'33,4''

Plot 2 coordinates: N 39°27'47,7''; W 31°13'33,6''
Fig.6: Sphagnum sp. surrounding the largest Erica azorica in Plot 2 at Morro Alto (D. Henriques)
This site is included in the Nature Reserve, one of the protected areas that are part of the Natural Park of Flores Island. The vegetation is a scrubland dominated by Juniperus brevifolia and Calluna vulgaris; Blechnum spicant is also abundant. Vascular species do not reach 2 m high. Bryophytes covered the entire ground, mainly Sphagnum
sp. Epiphytes are also present with covers reaching 30% in average.  

All samples of the Flores transect were curated in Terceira Island and wait for analysis at the University of Azores.

Text and Photographs:
Márcia Coelho, Débora Henriques, Fernando Pereira and Rosalina Gabriel.


Angra do Heroísmo, Terceira Island, Azores, Portugal - 2013.






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Thursday, 30 January 2014

4th field trip in the Azores: São Miguel Island, 26-30th August 2013)

In order to gather some more data on the bryoflora of the remaining Azorean islands with significant patches of native vegetation, an expedition following the methodology of the Moveclim project took place in São Miguel island (Azores) between the 26th and 30th of August 2013. The team was composed by Rosalina Gabriel, Débora Henriques, Márcia Coelho and Fernando Pereira, with the help of Paulo A. V. Borges and Diogo Silva. Three additional transects were done in the Azorean archipelago in the framework of the PhD thesis of  D. Henriques, these elevational transects complete the Pico transect originally planned in the Moveclim project, allowing a comparison between 4 transects along a gradient of age from São Miguel (4.1 Ma) to the youngest Pico (0.27 Ma).
In São Miguel, our task was made easier thanks to the previous work of Pr. Dr. Rui Elias and Fernando Pereira, who chose and delimited the sampling plots during June and July in order to catalog the existing vascular flora. Despite some rain and heavy fog on the second to last day, the weather was mostly good, allowing the six altitudes of the gradient to be sampled relatively fast, within 3 days. The transect ranged from 50 to 1000 m and was set up along the southeastern side of the island (Fig. 1).
The aim of this report is to briefly describe the sampling sites and illustrate the gradient with some photographs.
 
Fig. 1: Map of the six altitudes of São Miguel transect
50 m – Pelado viewpoint (Fig. 2)
Plot 1 coordinates: N37°51'00,1''; W25°09'00,8''
Plot 2 coordinates: N37°51'00,1''; W25°09'01,8''

Fig. 2: Vegetation at the Pelado viewpoint (D. Henriques) 



The vegetation surrounding this viewpoint in the Nordeste municipality is included in the Pelado Endemic Park, a protected area that still maintains some vascular endemics, which nowadays are rare or even completely absent at this elevation in the rest of the island. The proximity to the ocean makes this a somewhat arid region (hence the name “Pelado”, which loosely translates to “hairless” or “bald”) with low vegetation (less than 5 meters high), predominantly composed by Erica azorica and Morella faya. Bryophytes are more abundant in the soil.
200 m – Ribeira Quente (Fig. 3)
Plot 1 coordinates: N37°44'26,2''; W25°18'12,6''
Plot 2 coordinates: N37°44'26,7''; W25°18'10,8''
Fig. 3: The dominant presence of Hedychium gardnerianum  is obvious at 200 m ( D. Henriques)
Like most places at this altitudinal level, the Ribeira Quente area is greatly disturbed due to human activity. The forest patch, situated in a very steep slope (about 50°) is dominated by the non-native species Pittosporum undulatum at the canopy level and Hedychium gardnerianum in the undergrowth, with the sporadic presence of native trees like Laurus azorica, Picconia azorica and Morella faya. Bryophytes were mostly present on rocks and as epiphytes.
400 m – Lomba do Botão (Fig. 4)
Plot 1 coordinates: N37°46'26,3''; W25°16'30,4''
                Plot 2 coordinates: N37°46'25,9''; W25°16'30,6''
Fig. 4: The thalloïd liverwort Conocephalum conicum, surrounded by Fissidens sp. (D. Henriques)
At this altitude we found a somewhat disturbed forest system with the canopy reaching up to 10 meters high. The vegetation is dominated by Laurus azorica, with the less prominent presence of Erica azorica, Picconia azorica, Ilex perado subsp. azorica and Vaccinium cylindraceum. The undergrowth consists mainly of Hedychium gardnerianum, as on the previous altitude, and bryophytes are mostly epiphytes.
600 m – Tronqueira 
Plot 1 coordinates: N37°47'56,5''; W25°11'00,7''
Plot 2 coordinates: N37°47'56,4''; W25°11'00,0''



The Tronqueira region is well known for harboring the small Azores Bullfinch (Pyrrhula murina), an endemic and endangered bird species restricted to a small area of native Laurisilva forest in São Miguel, ranging from 600 m to 1000 m (Pico da Vara). Since the Bullfinch conservation project includes the maintenance and restoration of its original laurel forest habitat, the native vegetation is well preserved and species like Ilex perado subsp. azorica, Erica azorica, Laurus azorica and Juniperus brevifolia dominate the landscape. Nevertheless there is a high amount of Clethra arborea, which behaves as an invasive exotic in this part of São Miguel. Bryophyte cover is predominant on the trees (75%) but also very significant on the soil (50%).



800 m – Salto do Cavalo (Fig. 5)
Plot 1 coordinates: N37°47'16,3''; W25°16'37,7''
               Plot 2 coordinates: N37°47'15,7''; W25°16'37,6''


Fig.5: The moss Myurium hochstetteri found mostly as epiphytes at this locality (D. Henriques)

Salto do Cavalo is one of the highest points of the Island, from where both the southern and northern coastlines are visible. Its name (which loosely translates to “horse’s jump”) is associated with a legend in which a Portuguese king was saved from riding his horse down the cliff to a certain death by the archangel Michael, in honor of whom the island is named. This area is still part of the Azores Bullfinch distribution range, and its vegetation resembles the one found at the previous altitude. The forest system is dominated by Laurus azorica, with the presence of Ilex perado subsp. azorica, Erica azorica and Clethra arborea.
1000 m – Pico da Vara (Fig. 6)
Plot 1 coordinates: N37°48'35,1''; W25°12'50,5''
               Plot 2 coordinates: N37°48'35,0''; W25°12'51,6''

Fig. 6: The team working on the slopes of  Pico da Vara (F. Pereira)

Pico da Vara is the highest mountain on São Miguel Island, reaching up to 1103 meters at its peak. The vegetation is dominated by scrubland; bryophyte cover is predominant on the soil and shrubs. Vascular species are less than 2.5 m high and Vaccinium cylindraceum and Juniperus brevifolia dominate the plant composition. Other endemics, such as Ilex perado subsp. azorica, Laurus azorica, Prunus azorica, Erica azorica or Viburnum treleasei can also be found in the slopes and contribute to this area’s high endemism level.
At this point, samples of the São Miguel gradient have been curated and processed and will be analyzed at the University of the Azores.

Text and Photographs:
Débora Henriques, Márcia Coelho, Fernando Pereira and Rosalina Gabriel

 





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