Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Scientific helicopter expedition to the top of the island of Tahiti, July 2015

A two-days field trip was organized by Jean-Yves Meyer from the Délégation à la Recherche (French Polynesian Department of Research) in collaboration with the local nature protection group « Te Rau Ati Ati aTau a Hiti Noa Tu » to Mont Orohena, the highest summit of the Tahiti reaching ca. 2250 m, which is also the highest peak of all the South Pacific islands.

Pete, Rava and Darko in a steep humid ravine (Photo: Jean Yves)
A team of eight people (including Ravahere Taputuarai, Henri Jay, Teva Maireau, Théo Guilloux and Maxime Chan from « Te Rau Ati Ati ») was dropped by the helicopter on the 24th of July 2015 to spend two days and one night, in order to complete the inventory of all Pteridophytes (ferns and allies) and Bryophytes (mosses, liverworts and hornworts) for the Moveclim Project, but also to collect moths and spiders with two visiting research scientists: Darko Cotoras, a Chilean post-doc sponsored by the California Academy of Science, and Pete Oboyski, the curator of the insect collection at the University of California at Berkeley. The helicopter trip was covered by a journalist from the daily magazine « Tahiti Infos » which is freely distributed as paper copies and also accessible online (http://www.tahiti-infos.com/Des-scientifiques-sur-le-toit-du-fenua_a132998.html) and on the press page of this blog.
Teva and Darko collecting on the summital ridge (Photo: Jean Yves Meyer)
The collected ferns and moss specimens will complement the data obtained along the elevation gradient of Mt Aorai (between 600-2000 m) during the past 3 years. Field surveys were made on the main exposed ridges covered by dense shrublands and in some deep, wet and forested gulches on very steep slopes requiring sometimes a rope. Although no micro-climatic sensor was installed on Mt Orohena due to the very difficult access, temperature (measured with a mercury thermometer) decreased down to 3°C at night!

Team at camp (Photo: Jean Yves)
Summital peak, ridges and gulches (Darko Cotoras)

This expedition was the last one to be conducted in Tahiti for the Moveclim project, which will remain a great scientific and human adventure for the French Polynesian coordinators.

Jean Yves in the forest (Photo: Darko Cotoras)
Content: JYM
Photographs: JYM & DC

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