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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Monday, 27 January 2014

Island Biology 2014 Conference

The Island Biology 2014 Conference will be held in Honolulu, Hawaii (USA) from 7 to 11 of July 2014.

This is an international conference on island Evolution, Ecology and Conservation, the first of regular meetings that will be held every 4 years in islands.

One of the highlights of the conference, besides being organized in the charismatic archipelago of Hawaii, is the establishment of the International Society for Island Biology (ISIB) and its scientific journal Island Biology. Plenary speakers include Sherwin Carlquist, Rosemarie Gillespie, Peter and Rosemary Grant, Robert Ricklefs and Peter Vitousek.

It's a promising event for all island biologists!

Deadline of abstracts : 31 january 2014

Grande Comores, 2008

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Friday, 6 December 2013

Ecophysiology of tropical bryophytes in the face of climate change: recent advances...

A new book on Photosynthesis in bryophytes and early land plants has been published!

In one of this book's chapter, Wagner et al. from the University of Oldenburg (Germany) give a state of knowledge on the ecophysiology of tropical bryophytes, in relation of bryophytes abundance and distribution along elevational gradients. They hypothesized that low abundance of bryophytes in the lowland forests could be related to the physiology of tropical bryophytes especially the relationships between levels of hydration, light intensity, CO2 and temperature on Carbon balance... In the face of climate change, lowland bryophyte communities could be seriously affected, as they found that carbon balance depends on daily hydration patterns.

On the same line, this team published a recent article entitled Wagner et al. (2013) "Altitudinal changes in temperature responses of net photosynthesis and dark respiration in tropical bryophytes" Annals of Botany 111: 455-465, they show that temperature is not a main driver of tropical bryophytes distribution with elevation.

Previously, Bader et al. 2013,  stated in their article that "Differences in desiccation tolerance do not explain altitudinal distribution patterns of tropical bryophytes"from the Journal of Bryology 35: 47-56.

Interesting research to follow up!

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Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Fieldwork in Tahiti (French Polynesia) from 2-16 october 2013

Claudine AH-PENG, Terry HEDDERSON with Olivier FLORES and Dirk KARGER (Universität Zürich, Switzerland) took part to the last transect expedition of the Moveclim project on Mount Aorai (2066 m).

Our host Jean-Yves Meyer (Délégation à la Recherche) and Ravahere Taputuarai (member of the local NGO Te Rau Ati Ati A Tau A Hiti Noa Tu) welcomed us on the island traditionally, with flowers.
Pix: Flowers' crown (Photo credit: Ah-Peng C.)

We stayed at the “Pavillon d’accueil” of IRD in Arue, North of Papeete which is the main town of Tahiti, close to the road to Mount Aorai (Belvédère).
Pix: IRD Pavillon d'acceuil sea view (Photo credit: Ah-Peng C)
The following day of the arrival (8 oct), Claudine gave a talk in the conference cycle “Savoir pour Tous” at the University of French Polynesia entitled “Islands, sentinels of climate change”.

The bryophyte flora of the Society Islands (major islands Tahiti, Raiatea, Bora Bora, Moorea and Huahine) counts to our knowledge around 398 species divided into 178 moss species (Whittier, 1976; De Sloover 1994) and 220 species of liverworts and hornworts (Bardat et al. in prep.).  The geological age of the islands ranges from 1.4 to 12 Myrs. Tahiti is the highest (2241 m) and the largest island (1045 km2) in French Polynesia. This volcanic island emerged approximately 1.4 My ago as two islands Tahiti Nui and Tahiti Iti connected by the isthmus of Taravao. The interior of Tahiti Nui is almost entirely uninhabited. Tahiti Iti has remained isolated, as its south eastern half (Te Pari) is accessible only by boat or on foot.

After the arrival of Dirk and Olivier, we started the fieldwork in Tahiti Nui for the collection of bryophytes, ferns and the set up of climatic sensors along an elevational transect on mount Aorai from 600 to 2000 m. At each elevation, two long term monitoring plots of 10 X 10 m are set up.

Pix: Map of the sampling sites on Tahiti Nui (Photo credit: O. Flores)

JY Meyer already set up the plots, which was not an easy task as the physical nature of the island especially in the highlands is mostly vertical and with abrupt crests… As a consequence, at an exception to the other transects, plots could not be set up every 200 m, and the methodology has to be adapted to the steepness of the environment. Earlier this year, JY Meyer and his team worked on fern diversity and abundance as well as the structure of the forest structure and composition, to characterize these sampling plots. 

Pix: Mountain's landscape in Tahiti Nui (Photo credit: C. Ah-Peng)
Plots at 600 m and 900 m are dominated by two invasive species Spathodea campanulata and Miconia calvescens. Since its introduction in 1937, Miconia calvescens covers 2/3 of the island (Meyer & Florence, 1996).

Pix: Miconia calvescens invader of native forests; More recently a fungal pathogen was released to attack the leaves, which slows down the expansion of the invasive populations, with main impacts on juvenils (Meyer et al. 2008), Photo credit: C. Ah-Peng

Pix: At these altitudes, on exposed soil banks, members of the Pottiaceae family are found: Weisia controversa and Anoectangium ssp.
Pix: The liverwort Trichocolea tomentella (Trichocoleaceae),  in shade and humicolous habitats (Photo credit: C. Ah-Peng (left) & Jacques Bardat (right) 

Pix: Dense corticolous population of the moss Neckeropsis lepineana (Neckeraceae) and close-up, Photo credit: C. Ah-Peng

Pix: The dendroid moss Hypnodendron samoanum present on decaying wood, humus and rocks. It can be distinguished from Hypnodendron tahiticum by the absence of tomentum (dense reddish rhizoid network), Photo credit: C. Ah-Peng

At 1200 and 1300 m, the number and cover of invasive species decreases, the montane cloud forest starts.

Pix: At 1200 and 1300 m in the cloud forest (Photo credit: O. Flores)

Some bryophyte species appear at these altitudes…
Pix: Ptychomnion aciculare (Ptychomniaceae) is member of a genus restricted to the Southern hemisphere, present in Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Pacific islands, Chile and Patagonia. (Photo credit: C. Ah-Peng)
Pix: Corticolous Garovaglia powellii var. tahitensis, in the family Pterobryaceae, the genus was revised by H. Düring in 1977.
In the plots 1700, 1800 and 2000 m, the forest is dominated by tree ferns (Cyathea spp), Weinmania parviflora, and the native trees Ilex anomala and Metrosideros collina. The canopy is lower 6-8 m, with many high dbh tree on the ground.

Pix: Metrosideros collina (Photo credit: C. Ah-Peng)
Pix: Colony of  Pyrrhobryum spiniforme (Rhizogoniaceae) on decaying wood, Photo credit: C. Ah-Peng
Pix: One of the favorite moss of the team on this trip: Spiridens reinwardtii on Cyathea sp., gametophyte length sometimes reaches 30 cm. Cladocarpous moss (sprophytes are on short lateral branches).

Pix: Epiphytic liverwort Mastigophora diclados (Mastigophoraceae), same habit as Réunion island in the cloud forest, (Photograph credit: C. Ah-Peng).
A total of 695 ecological specimens (50 cm2) of bryophytes were collected for this transect, and 350 floristic samples. This transect was set up with a western orientation, as in the eastern side, the access to the mountain would have required land owners authorization, which could have delayed this expedition. In the future, it would be interesting to set up an eastern transect, as local climate can vary prominently over a few km or on a different slope of the mountain, to compare the diversity pattern. As an element of comparison for this first Tahitian transect, in the South Pacific ocean, three transects for epiphytic bryophytes were surveyed in Fiji by Mereia Katafono (Ms student) from the University of the South Pacific and Matt von Konratt's team with the same sampling methodology but restricted to epiphytic communities on a Calophyllum sp and tree ferns species. We are looking forward to this bryological collaborative work.

Pix: Olivier is setting a Madgetech climatic sensor, which records hourly relative humidity and temperature. In front Asplenium's  leaf. Jean Yves and Rava will be collected the climatic data every six months at each studied altitude. Photo credit: C. Ah-Peng

Pix: Group's picture after the fieldwork, from left to right: Rava, Claudine, Olivier, Terry, Dirk and in the middle Jean-Yves.

During our stay we had the opportunity to explore Mount Marau and bryologizing for one day.
Pix: The cameraman Matahi Tutavae interviewed the team for the evening news  of Tahiti Nui Television, on a crest at 1400 m,  Photo credit: JY Meyer
Pix: With Elie Poroi from the NGO Te Rau Ati Ati at Mount Marau, Photo credit: JY Meyer

During our stay, the former president of the NGO, Henry Jaÿ, invited us at his house for diner with members of the active NGO for nature protection “Te Rau Ati Ati”. Henri knows very well the tahitian mountains, he is one of the first person to open hiking trails in Tahiti and bring scientists up the mountains. Claudine gave a brief presentation of the Moveclim project and on some Tahitian bryophytes in front of an attentive audience.

Pix: Moveclim presentation from Te Rau Ati Ati, Photo credit: JY Meyer

Pix: The presentation was followed by a lovely tahitian supper, at Henri Jaÿ's home, made of fresh coconut fish, féi (cooked banana), taro, rice, prawn and fish curry,  wild pig cooked in the underground traditional polynesian oven (hima'a), accompanied by some ukulele music from Mrs Poroi, upper left, Paul Niva (anthropologist, Tuihana), "Zaza" Poroi (Te Rau Ati Ati), Claudine et Terry (Photo credit: JY Meyer)

For the last two days of this field trip, we went to the close island Moorea by ferry, and meet up with another bryologist B. Mishler who was giving a field course to Berkeley University lucky students. We enjoyed our stay at the Gump field station and had the chance to explore the island.
Pix: The Gump field station of the University of Berkeley (left up),  with our host B. Mishler. Views of Moorea

Pix: Island of Moorea (French Polynesia), photo credit: C. Ah-Peng

Pix: Cook's bay in Moorea, Photo credit: C. Ah-Peng

It has been a lovely journey to the Pacific islands, the warmth welcoming, the beautiful landscapes and untouched highlands, the interesting bryoflora and plant diversity make this journey unforgettable and one to come visit again. Although a moss flora was produced in 1976, the author himself mentioned that the "true flora is far from thoroughly known"... This bryophyte flora of the Society islands archipelago was produced primarily from collections from Tahiti and Moorea (about 2000 numbered specimens of both mosses and hepatics). Many islands in French Polynesia (area> 35 km2) with altitude (>600 m) as Bora Bora, Huabine and Tahaa in the Society islands archipelago and Fatu Iva, Tahuata, Ua Pou, Ua Huka in the Marquisas islands archipelago are still unexplored for their bryoflora with for some of them not any one bryophyte record. 

We would like to thank Jean-Yves, Rava, Téa and the members of the NGO Te Rau Ati Ati, for their contribution to this memorable fieldwork, the IRD team for accommodating us (many thanks to Lysette and Mama Rose), and Brent Mishler for organizing our stay at the Gump station in Moorea.

It was a nice coincidence to discover while we were in Tahiti, that a famous novelist recently published a book, about the adventures of a bryologist to Tahiti during the Darwin's era and captain Cook expeditions’, perfect reading at this time... “The signature of all things” from Elisabeth Gilbert.

Claudine, Olivier and Terry.

Cited references

Bardat J., R. Gradstein, Hagborg A. & Söderström L. (in preparation). Checklist of the liverworts and hornworts of French Polynesia,
Meyer J.-Y. (1998).
Meyer J.-Y.  and Florence (1996) J. Tahiti’s native flora endangered by the invasion of Miconia calvescens DC. (Melastomataceae).” Journal of Biogeography 23 (6): 775-781. 
Witthier H.0. (1976) Mosses of the Society Islands, The University Presses of Florida, Gainesville, 410 pp.
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