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From the field - Harapan Rainforest, Sumatra

Marie Briggs
27 January 2012
Blog team: 

Kew's GIS and South East Asia team report from the forests of Sumatra. This is the first of their posts.

24 January 2012 – first day of fieldwork

We are sitting here in the field office in the Harapan Rainforest still working at 11.30pm after our first day in the field. It’s been a long day already and we will probably work further into the night (collating results from the day’s work / labelling photos / tweaking data entry forms) but it has been very productive.

We set out from the main camp this morning, excited with anticipation of what the day would bring and keen to get on with the job at hand, only to be stopped in our tracks five minutes outside of camp by a fallen tree, blown down by last night's storm (it’s the rainy season). Fifteen minutes and several machete chops later we were on our way again, driving along the boundary road towards our first study sites.

Harapan Tree fallen

Moving a fallen tree from the road

The boundary road from camp is interesting in that it marks the official boundary of the park in this area. On one side of the dirt road is Harapan Rainforest and on the other is an oil palm plantation. This is such a potent image because much of Sumatra’s native rainforest has been chopped down to make way for this lucrative crop and here you have both facing each other in an apparent ‘stand-off’.

Harapan oil palm and forest

Oil palm plantation on the left and rainforest on the right

Our aims

On this trip we will compare the different vegetation types we think we can see from our satellite images with what is actually present on the ground. From this we can produce an accurate and up-to-date vegetation map for the forest. Our mapping expert, Jenny, looks at satellite maps of the forest and decides from them what she would like us to classify. We then go to those points in the forest, set up plots and record various data including the diameter of some of the trees. Some of the buttress roots mean that our team have to think of innovative ways to gather the data.

Harapan Tree climbing

Not letting large trees get in the way of collecting data!

There is much to do before tomorrow’s foray out into the forest so we had best sign off - see our next blog for a selection of images showing what we’re finding in our forest plots. 

- Marie -

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