Welcoming conservationists from France, the Netherlands, England, Columbia, the US, Canada, and Germany this month, we have had too much fun. This great group has been hitting the trail, conducting day and night time research, planting trees, and finding some time for ultimate Frisbee and football. For several months, we have been planning to get a new camera trap in the crown of an old growth tree. We finally pulled that off with the help of Drew Hart, who is an ‘old hat’ at climbing trees, and Amy Sutley, who has a ton of rock climbing experience. The tree we selected is in our old growth area, pictured above, and if you follow the ropes all the way, you can almost see Amy sitting in the branch high above rigging the ropes so we can raise and lower the camera through a pulley system. Now we sit back and let our imaginations run wild as we anxiously anticipate what kind of cool animals we will capture.
Thanks for your interest in our current events! Keep reading for more information on who is currently here and what kinds of great science endeavors we have been tackling!
Oli and Beth have both been working in Sheffield in the UK, where they went to the University of Sheffield and graduated in 2015. Beth earned a languages degree (French and Spanish) and Oli completed a degree in biochemistry. Beth has been working in youth education for the British Red Cross for the last 18 months, delivering sessions addressing stigma related to migration and first aid training related to drugs and alcohol misuse. Oli has been working in a laboratory for an environmental testing company for the last 18 months, testing nutrients in agricultural soils and monitoring waste water for contamination.
The two were looking for a change in direction from their jobs. They came to Cloudbridge for new experiences and time to think about the next step. Here for 3 months, they are looking forward to getting involved in anything going on at Cloudbridge, and have already been clearing land building paths and planting trees. They will also be carrying out the monthly owl surveys and will be looking to analyze the data that has previously been gathered.
Leo, 19, from Toulouse, France is a former Cloudbridge volunteer. He stayed here last year for 3 months, participating in the owls project and carrying out preliminary surveys about 11 bird species. He found these experiences were very useful to validate a degree in management and protection of nature, which he finished 2 months ago. He missed Costa Rica so much that he came back in July to travel around the country for 2 months, exploring nature reserves and national parks looking for rare bird species. Concluding his trip, he is back at Cloudbridge for a week of volunteering. Upon return to France, Leo will start a degree in biology at University of Toulouse. Looking forward, he hopes to work in wildlife biology and conservation in the French overseas territories, which are little known, but have an amazing biodiversity.
Erika, from Finland, calls home the place she lays her head each night. She studied architecture and engineering in Sweden, with a focus on sustainable development. She finished her masters studies in June 2016 and immediately left home to travel for an unknown period of time. Not wanting to get ‘stuck in a office’, Erika is experiencing the world through a grassroots journey; she seeks to understand what’s going on in the world, find inspiring projects to visit and volunteer in, and to use her skills to make a difference in important matters. Ultimately, she aims to use these experiences in her use of architecture as a tool to improve lives, while at the same time protecting the environment. She is looking to Cloudbridge to add experiential variety about the natural world and conservation. She believes that everything is connected and doing/designing something truly sustainable requires understanding the broader impacts outside ones own field. In every project she is involved with, she is especially interested in the social side and how different projects improve lives (like how reforestation and protecting the environment benefit people through reduced natural disasters, healthier farmlands and potential monetary benefits of ecotourism). She is documenting all of her volunteer projects and visits in a blog: www.fieldstudyoftheworld.com.
Ramon te Beek from The Netherlands arrived this month, he is studying wildlife management at Van Hall Larenstein. It is his fourth and last year of study and is doing a 5 month internship at Cloudbridge. Ramon plans to research the suitability of the reserve for sloth species, including the reserve’s suitability as a release site. By researching tree species known to be used as habitat or food for sloths, Ramon hopes to determine if those trees are present and what the potential for sloths is at this high elevation in the cloud forest. While there have been sightings of sloths on the reserve, it has been little documented. During this internship, Ramon would like to gain more experience in setting up a research study and gain more experience in the field.
Originally from Michigan, Olivia is a graduate of environmental studies from Hiram College. She has experience doing breeding bird surveys as well as mist-netting, and is looking to gain more ornithological skills in new habitats. Having spent the past few years working on organic farms, she’s excited to be back in a forest and thrilled by all of the diversity Cloudbridge has to offer!
Mammal and Tree Sapling Interaction
Cyrielle, a researcher from France, finished up her study this month which looked at Mammal and Tree Sapling Interaction in our Reforestation areas. Here is her abstract:
In the current context of global climate change and deforestation practices, studying the impact of animals on reforestation projects is very interesting. The reforestation project at Cloudbridge Nature Reserve is one of its main activities and, as there are some parts of the reserve which are still deforested, they need the reforestation practices to be efficient. As some animals have disturbed several planted areas of Cloudbridge, we wanted to know if their disturbance had a negative impact on the reforestation project. My study was focused on the monitoring sapling trees’ health and growth. I choose 3 plots in the reserve with 15 trees in each one. After setting up an health index, I collected data every week for each tree and one of the plots was disturbed during my data collection. I statistically analyzed the impact of disturbance on tree health and tree growth and also looked at the potential effect of several environmental factors. We found that the disturbance had no significant impact on sapling health nor growth in the studied plots, but that soil humidity was positively correlated with tree health and increase in tree diameter.
Moth Species Variety and Abundance & Epiphyte Coverage vs Forest Succession
This group of University students from Exeter and Falmouth in England, conducted two studies while on site. In the first study, they are working on a moth species list and comparing the moths found in different types of forest structure. Secondly, they compared epiphyte coverage in natural regenerated forest, planted forest and old growth. Epiphytes are any type of plant that grows on a host tree i.e. fern, lichen, moss, bromiliad, orchid, etc.
Their studies have shown that less than half of all bromeliad species were tanks (those which leaves are arranged in the shape of a funnel and hold water). Ferns were the most prevalent in planted and natural regeneration areas (less than 30 years old), showing little difference between two. The younger forests show good dispersal of spores and the ferns seem to act as intermediate successional species. In the old growth, the ferns are shown to be poor competitors. In the old growth, other species appear more successful, e.g. Orchids.
Habitat Assessment of Planted, Naturally Regenerated and Primary Cloud Forest
Mathijs has been here for five months assessing forest habitat in different stages of succession. He was continuing a study started the year before, monitoring the growth of trees and forest structure at plots around the reserve. He found that at present, the naturally regenerating areas are more similar to the old growth areas than the planted areas are. However, he was able to determine that the planted areas, with regular maintenance schedules, showed a higher increase in diameter at breast height (DBH) than the naturally regenerating areas, suggesting that the planted areas may eventually surpass the naturally regenerating areas in their recovery.
A slow walking Ocelot is captured on one of our research trails. The ocelot is one of the six wild cats found at Cloudbridge, three of which are listed as Near Threatened or Vulnerable on the IUCN red list.
Bird Researchers, Amy and Baley captured this photo of a juvenile Ornate Hawk Eagle early one morning. It was one of many delightful sightings of this incredible raptor. They have nicknamed him Barry.
Rhys from Falmouth University, England, getting to know a Sphinx Moth which was attracted to evening light.
Climate Change Regarding Agriculture and Forest Preservation:
Much of the reason for the deforestation of this reserve was to develop farm land in the area. Forests around the world are still being removed for agriculture and in particular the beef industry. An excerpt from Climate Reality explains the studies and science behind making changes in this industry to help reduce green house gases in a big way.
The science is in that we must change our diets:
A 2014 analysis by the University of Cambridge found that “the agriculture-related emissions in our business-as-usual scenario alone almost reach the full 2C target emissions allowance for 2050,” and the only scenario that would reduce emissions in 2050 compared to 2009 levels was the low-meat “healthy diet” scenario. Furthermore, “Almost all of these large GHG emission savings (5.6 out of ∼6 GtCO2e yr−1 ) are associated with livestock reductions.”
Johns Hopkins Center for a Liveable Future summarized five studies which all demonstrated that the most dramatic declines in greenhouse gases are made possible through reduction in meat consumption.
Chalmers University in Sweden concludes that, “Large reductions, by 50% or more, in ruminant meat consumption are, most likely, unavoidable if the EU targets are to be met” because “technological options alone are very unlikely to be sufficient.”
A meta-analysis of 120 studies found that if Americans transitioned to a plant-based diet it could reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 79%, as well as avoiding 460,861 premature deaths, and saving $289 billion in health care and climate change mitigation costs.
A team of researchers from four universities found that by simply replacing beef with beans, the United States could immediately “achieve approximately 46 to 74% of the reductions needed to meet the 2020 GHG target for the U.S. In turn, this shift would free up 42% of U.S. cropland.”
The Global Calculator from the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change allows people to see these stunning results for themselves. Selecting the Chatham House “high meat” and “low meat” categories displays the dramatic disparity in the degree of warming achieved with maximal or minimal changes to diet, while holding other abatement strategies steady.
It is evident that we can change our food system. Unlike the energy sector, which requires technological innovation, changes in energy policy, and infrastructure investments, the food system can be shifted much more rapidly and readily. Plant-based proteins require less land, water, and energy to produce, and are generally less expensive than animal-based protein. In fact, simple supply and demand is already accomplishing this change; beef consumption has fallen 19% since 2005, reducing GHG emissions equivalent to the tailpipe emissions from 39 million cars.
So it is not only true that we will change our diets, but in fact we are already changing. 60% of adults surveyed report a reduction in their consumption of animal-based protein. The numbers are even more potent when examined generationally: “12% of millennials report being ‘faithful vegetarians,’ compared to 4% of Gen X’ers and 1% of baby boomers.”
Just as the clean energy sector has seen a positive spiral – ideologically-driven increased demand leads to increased investment and innovation, which leads to increased availability and decreased price, which leads to market-driven increased demand – so too the plant-based food sector is seeing a similar spiral. Vegetarian protein is consistently a top food trend. In fact, even meat and dairy companies are seeing the writing on the wall and investing in plant-based foods:
Tyson Foods, one of the largest meat producers in the world, recently bought a 5% stake in Beyond Meat, makers of plant-based chicken and beef products.
Pinnacle Foods, the company famous for Hungry Man frozen dinners, bought Gardein, makers of an array of plant-based meats.
Danone, the parent company of Dannon Yogurt, recently bought Whitewave, the parent company of Silk and So Delicious plant-based dairy products, for $10 billion.
Technology is also playing a role. Millions of dollars in venture capital are flooding to companies like Impossible Foods, makers of the plant-based “burger that bleeds.” There have also been recent breakthroughs in “clean meat” by companies like Memphis Meats who culture animal muscle tissue to grow animal protein. This process generates 96% less greenhouse gas emissions than traditional animal agriculture, and also uses 99% less land and 96% less water.
As plant-based products become more accessible, affordable, and accepted, the stigma of discussing diet is falling away. Thanks to the rise of movements like Meatless Monday and Green Monday, as well as “flexitarian” or “reducetarian” diets, discussing food choices is no longer an all-or-nothing proposition.
At a time when people are desperate for ways to make change, there is no reason to ignore one of the most effective and immediate ways for individual consumers to curb climate change and many of the most pressing environmental issues facing our world.
And so, Eat Your Veggies!
Local Farmers Market in San Isidro, Costa Rica: