Thursday, January 11, 2018

Tour of La Calandria and Finca Rodriguez Ecological Refuge

We started Tuesday by taking a short tour of La Calandria, then we went to the Finca Rodriguez Ecological Refuge.

Its a tough life to be the camera for a wandering environmentalist.  I dropped my camera on the bus, and this lens filter gave its life so the lens might live.  My camera has been rained on, mud sprayed, and dropped, but it keeps right on showing up for work every day.

One of the main goals of La Calandria is to foster reforestation.  Here, on the right, you can see their nursery of baby native trees.  These trees are freely given to local farmers to reforest their pastures.  Some cover the entire pasture, others make wind breaks around the borders or along creeks.  These breaks and borders are enough to allow some bird species to migrate.  Other birds need larger continuous patches.

Here students walk through a restored pasture.  This forest is 25 years old, and the trees are around 25-30 tall, I guess.

We hopped on the bus and rode a short distance to....

Here, Dr. Parshall shows the way to safely wear a WSU GO GLOBAL cord bag. 

Deb Hamilton is an uncommonly good conservation scientist.  Her excitement is contagious, and she serves as a stellar role model of what one person can accomplish.  Here, she explains some of the processes that are important in forest restoration.  In particular, forests are much more than trees.  It takes a myriad of other organisms to make up the complex ecosystem.  Scientists simply don't know how long it takes epiphytes and other important components of forests to show up in reforested ares. These orange flagged trees are 10 years old. 

Deb was very excited about this hanging leaf litter.  These small pockets of drying leaves serve as habitat for many species.  This is the first time she has observed these in this forest, and they are a great sign that the forest restoration is progressing.  The more complex the forest is, the more niches and habitat that exist for a more diverse community of organisms.  We also saw one small epiphyte.

Here, Tim shows students a soil pit and discusses some of the dynamic ecology of tropical soils.  In particular, the top organic layer is relatively thin, because the warm moist conditions favor rapid decomposition of leaf litter. These soils are mostly volcanic in origin, from the Arenal Volcano you saw in earlier posts.

Here's the trail up to the old coffee plantation.

 Here, we're sitting in an old family coffee plantation.  Many families use coffee as their main cash crop.  Coffee is the third largest export from Costa Rica, and Costa Rica is the 15th largest coffee producing country - pretty amazing, given that it is the size of West Virginia.  Most of the coffee is grown on small family farms and sold by collectives.  Deb was "super, super thrilled" by how the reforestation is proceeding.  The coffee bushes on this parcel were cut down, because they were diseased.  This area shows an experiment between a no-mow reforestation and a mow forestation.  Obviously, we're in the mow section.  The idea is that in a mowed section, there is less competition, and presumably the trees will grow better than in the no-mow section, where trees must compete with other species.  Recent results have shown, however, that the no-mow trees grow taller more quickly under the stress of the competition, thus creating taller, straighter trunks more characteristic of a native forest.

 Here are a few coffee beans.  If you chew the outside off, its not bad, not good.  The beans though, are too tough to break with your (my) teeth, and have a very slimey coating.  You can pinch them like a water melon seed and shoot them about 10 yards:-)

We left the coffee plantation and drove on to the Children's Eternal Rain Forest, where we hiked to San Gerardo.

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