If you asked us to tell you what we do as interns for the TRACE project on an average day, we would tell you that each day is very different. Keep reading to get an idea of some of the adventures we have throughout a week.
Monday: We always make time to do the weekly inspection. We check to make sure that the experiment is functioning properly, clean off the heaters, and take pictures to track the changing plots.
Friday: Time for a plant photo shoot! We take pictures of the seedling’s leaves in the plots in order to track herbivory.
The Tropical Responses to Altered Climate Experiment has started the experimental treatments!
We have successfully begun warming our 12m2 experimental plots to 4 degrees Celsius higher than ambient temperature. This was possible after many years of hard collaborative work, dedication and perseverance amidst a variety of unexpected challenges, such as: the most severe drought in more than twenty years, endless technical problems ranging from short circuits to humidity and insects invading the inside of our electrical equipment, difficult scientific decisions related to working inside such small plots, as well as budget and labor limitations.
This is the first experiment of this kind in any tropical forest. The long term experimental warming of the understory of a tropical rainforest will allow scientists to better predict how tropical forests will respond to increases in global temperatures due to climate change. We will be monitoring numerous effects on understory plants, soil, roots, microbes and nutrient cycling.
The Start-Up story was covered by The Guardian newspaper. Stay tuned for more news as this amazing project continues!
We use duct seal, commonly known as putty, to seal the ends of the conduits and datalogger enclosures in the forest. This prevents moisture and animals from getting in. Nevertheless, we've been wondering why it disappears so fast! Surely there must be a reason! Isn't this stuff supposed to last?
OH, WAIT A MINUTE.... WHAT IS THIS ON THE FLOOR??!
It seems we have been feeding the snails EXTREMELY well during the past year.
How did Tana get involved in climate change research? What are some of the challenges of starting a warming experiment in the tropics? Click here to access the article that was published by Climate Wire.
The concrete for the base of the tower has been poured and the locations of the guy wire anchors have finally been selected. We obviously couldn't be more excited and wanted to feel like superstars by making our permanent marks on the base of the tower.
We have finally started the construction of a 66ft tall canopy access tower at the TRACE site. The tower will be used to study warming responses of individual leaves and branches of adult tropical trees.
But, building a tower in the middle of a very wet rainforest with uneven terrain is no easy feat! For example, it's important to consider how the slope affects where to install the guy wires. Ecologists breaking out the high school trigonometry!
Calentaremos tres áreas pequeñas del tamaño aproximado de un trampolín circular (de 14 pies de diámetro) donde solo se calentarán el suelo y plantas pequeñas. El nivel al que aumentaremos la temperatura (7 grados F) está dentro del ámbito de lo que el Bosque Nacional El Yunque experimenta por temporadas. En el futuro, esperamos calentar hojas individuales de 4 árboles maduros que se obtendrán desde una torre de andamios, pero de nuevo, el impacto será tan pequeño que los árboles no sufrirán daño alguno. El lugar del experimento no está ubicado en ninguna área virgen del Bosque Nacional El Yunque, sino en un área de bosque secundario que previamente fue pastizal. No obstante, estamos tomando todas las medidas para ocasionar el menor impacto posible con este proyecto. La mayoría de nuestras mediciones se harán a través de sensores automatizados y la colección de hojas y muestras de suelo para análisis estará rigurosamente restringida. En adición, el área que se calentará estará completamente abierta. Esto significa que cualquier animal podrá ir y venir libremente. A pesar de ser este el primer proyecto de calentamiento en un bosque tropical, el método de calentamiento que usaremos ha sido utilizado en docenas de ecosistemas diferentes a lo largo del mundo por décadas. Queremos enfatizar que el propósito de TRACE es evaluar los posibles efectos que el calentamiento global podría representar para los bosques tropicales y utilizar este conocimiento para ayudarnos a asegurar que El Yunque podrá ser disfrutado por muchas generaciones venideras. Realizamos la investigación escrupulosamente con muy poco impacto sobre el ambiente y le extendemos una invitación a los ciudadanos preocupados que conozcan más sobre nuestro proyecto en esta página, que observen nuestras fotos, o visiten AQUI para más información.
We will have three small warmed areas that are about the size of a circular trampoline (14 feet diameter) that will warm soil and small plants only. The amount that we are increasing temperature (7 degrees F) is well within the present range of what El Yunque National Forest experiences seasonally. In the future, we hope to warm some individual leaves from approximately 4 mature trees that can be accessed from a scaffolding tower, but again, the effect will be so small that the trees will not be harmed. The study area is not located in a pristine area of El Yunque National Forest, but in an area of secondary forest that was previously pasture. Nevertheless, we are taking great care to cause minimal disturbance with this project. For example, the majority of our measurements will be performed by automated sensors, and the collection of leaves and soils for analysis is severely restricted. Also, the warmed area is completely open. This means that animals can come and go freely. While this is the first warming project to be conducted in a tropical forest, the method of warming that we are using has been successfully used in dozens of different ecosystems throughout the world for decades. We would like to stress that the purpose of TRACE is to assess the potential effects that global warming poses to tropical forests, and to use this knowledge to help ensure that El Yunque can be enjoyed by many generations to come. We are conscientiously doing so with very minimal impact on the environment, and we invite concerned citizens to learn more about our project through this website, look at our Project Photos, or click HERE for more information.
The east side of Puerto Rico is experiencing a severe drought that has already reached historical proportions. Some plants inside the experimental plots seem to be wilting due to the lack of rainfall, and the soil is dry and unusually cracked. For this reason, the start-up date of TRACE has been posponed until further notice.
Read more about the drought in Puerto Rico in the following articles:
TRACE became a test site for newly designed probes that measure continuous moisture from the surface of the soil down to 1-meter depth. The probes were installed in one warmed plot and in one control plot, and will be compared to nearby conventional soil moisture probes. The prototype PRISMS (Profile Resolving In Situ Soil Moisture Sensor) are developed by Transcend Engineering, a company that develops sensors and instrumentation for a great variety of applications. See their newletter HERE for more information.