Working at the Charles Darwin Research Station again
Thanks to a research fellowship sponsored by the Schimper Stiftung I was able to go to the Galápagos in February. It was great to continue my work on the Scalesia restoration project in the highlands of Santa Cruz. After intensive work in the invertebrate lab we finished all spider and beetles identifications and counted all other invertebrates caught within the long-term monitoring. This program started in 2014 and invertebrates were caught in 34 plots using pitfall and Malaise traps. First results have been recently published but more detailed analyses will be available soon.
Scalesia pedunculata – an endemic tree in the Galápagos
Argiope spec. – a spider species commonly found in Scalesia trees
I had a very amazing field trip to the Scalesia forests at Los Gemelos. Scalesia species have been called „the Darwin’s finches of the plant world“ because they show a similarly dramatic pattern of adaptive radiation. These giant daisy trees have an entire vegetation zone named after them. Scalesia is a genus of the family Asteraceae that is endemic to the Galapagos Islands. They consist of 15 native shrubs and tree species with six subspecies and each of the species has adapted to the different vegetation zones across the different islands.
Scalesia forests at Los Gemelos (Santa Cruz, Galápagos)
Study site at Los Gemelos. Scalesia forest with blackberry control
A zone in the highlands of some islands is referred to as the Scalesia Zone which is a lush cloud forest and home to the largest of the Scalesia species (S. pedunculata dominant on Santa Cruz). From a distance the vegetation looks like a hummocky bog land but under the canopy, mosses, bromeliads, epiphytes and orchids thrive. The whole Scalesia zone is most threatened by human settlement. The zone is some of the most fertile land area on the Islands and perfect for agriculture. This has led to much of the original Scalesia forest being chopped down and replaced. Furthermore, the spread of introduced species such as blackberry has adverse effects on the habitat.
Malaise trap at Los Gemelos
Here is a very interesting article about Scalesia forests which was published in GALAPAGOS REPORT 2009 -2010.