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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