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A New Era of Scientiﬁc Exploration in the World’s Forest Canopies
By Andrew Mitchell Director, Global Canopy Programme
GCP STEERING COMMITTEE
UK Foreign and Commonwealth Ofﬁce GLOBAL OPPORTUNITIES FUND * CHK Charities Ernest Kleinwort Charitable Trust John Ellerman Foundation Darwin Initiative
What is Life? Where did it come from?
Imagine a weather forecast on our other planets. 200 mph winds in the morning, acid rain by the afternoon, Gigantic volcanic eruptions overnight.
The Earth IS special. Only here has life evolved.
…perhaps its greatest creation?
The Rainforest Canopy!
The most diverse expression of life on earth
What do trees do?
6CO2 + 6H2O
C6H1206 + 6O2
Take carbon dioxide from the air, plus water, add sunlight and leaves and they produce sugar and oxygen. A simple formula but look what the canopy creates…
Greatest Diversity of Life anywhere!
What is the canopy like?
Tree crowns do not touch
A Hanging Garden 2/3 Epiphytes …of life
Epiphytes cover branches high above ground providing homes For many species.
The canopy has curious lifestyles:. Some frogs climb into bromeliads up on tree branches to place their tadpoles in water pools trapped in the leaves. (Dendrobates pumilio)
Then the mother brings a single unfertilised egg each day to feed the tadpole!
There are canopy highways in the trees. Animals memorise them like we remember a favourite walk. To move around you must be agile, be able to leap, glide, …………or ﬂy.
Canopies create homes for animals in many different Ways.
A mouse lemur from Madagascar
Canopies change our way of thinking about life. Sometimes bats thought to be rare from scientiﬁc studies on the ground are found to be common in the canopy. Nobody had looked for them there. (Tube nosed fruit bat)
Canopies contain many ﬂowers and fruits. Mammals, birds, insects, even lizards pollinate them. Many are pollinated by the wind.
Flowers produce nectar to attract pollinators. This lorikeet from Fiji is cutting into the base of a ﬂower to get the nectar and will carry pollen on its feathers to another tree.
The red ‘aril’ on this seed is rich in protein and is coloured red to attract a bird to eat it.
This nutmeg seed will be dropped after passing through the bird, perhaps a pigeon, to germinate away from the parent tree.
Animals communicate in the canopy.
Bright colours, B Sound and odours, enable them to communicate among the dense green leaves.
The howler monkey is one of the loudest creatures in the canopy. Its calls warn groups feeding on leaves to stay away from each other.
Many predators live in the canopy…. The blunt headed tree snake snatches small lizards from leaves. It has a special spine enabling it to reach across gaps between branches.
The clouded leopard is the most abroreal of the big cats. It climbs trees in Asia’s forests and feeds on monkeys, birds and small mammals.
The harpy eagle hunts monkeys and sloths in the canopies of Latin American forests.
New canopy primate species… …are still found
Studying canopy primates is hard.
Species, such as this Müeller’s gibbon in Borneo, move fast and live high in the canopy.
Three million years ago, our ancestors left the canopy to begin a life on the ground. Now were going back!
So - how did scientists begin exploring this unknown world?
William Beebe, an American oceanographer, was the ﬁrst scientist to think about exploring the forest canopy. He never got there but invented the ‘bathysphere’ for exploring the bottom of the ocean!
"Yet another continent of life remains to be discovered, not upon the earth, but one or two hundred feet above it, extending over thousands of square miles … There awaits a rich harvest for the naturalist who overcomes the obstacles - gravitation, ants, thorns, rotten trunks -- and mounts to the summits of the … trees.”
1818 William Beebe
The ﬁrst problem… How to get into the canopy?
Trees are as high as 85 metres in the Asian tropics. …and have few branches!
The ﬁrst full scientiﬁc expedition to set out to explore the canopy was from Oxford University in 1929 to British Guiana
Equipment was carried in by river to Moraballi Creek
Canons were used to ﬁre ropes up into the canopy to place a wooden chair to haul researchers up. Local climbers proved to be better! Max Nicholson, below, was the ﬁrst Scientist to spend the night in the canopy. He became a founder of the World Wildlife Fund.
In the 1980’s, teams led by Andrew Mitchell from UK (left), built aerial walkways to compare the forest canopy in Panama, Costa Rica, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia.
Team shot b and w slide
These walkways were light-weight and portable. Many canopy walkways now exist around the world, both for science, education and tourism.
Later, ropes and specialised climbing equipment became the most popular method of gaining access to the canopy - for research.
In the 1980’s a French team, led by Prof. Francis Hallé came up with a new idea. A hot air balloon and a raft.
Many people thought it was crazy!
But it worked!
Professor Francis Hallé, 1980’s
Next Hallé dreamed of using an airship
This too was a success! The airship is the largest hot air balloon in the world. Scientists are carried below in a small raft from which they collect specimens across the canopy. A pilot ﬂies the airship which is powered by a propeller.
Close up balloon and pretzel scan from geographical
It can carry a much bigger raft!
Scientists use this like an island in the tree tops, for 1-3 weeks. The airship can move it to a new place.
In the 1990’s… - The Canopy ‘Bubble’. A helium ﬁlled balloon.
IKOS Tree House
Also developed by the French Canopy Consortium
The ‘bubble’ allows single researchers to access the top of the canopy.
Bubble and net
A day’s work for the biologist and photographer Laurent Pyot!
The ‘IKOS’, a kind of metal tree-house, ICOS pic is assembled by researchers in a tree crown.
Three Scientists can live there and make observations. There is even a small kitchen.
In 1990 Dr Alan Smith dreamed of putting a crane into the rainforest. A new era of canopy exploration was born!
Alan Smith, right, with Andrew Mitchell, testing the ﬁrst Smithsonian canopy crane in Panama.
The ‘gondola’ suspended below the crane ‘jib’ has made canopy access safe and easy for all.
Crane picture from air helicopter
Ten canopy cranes are now in use in forests around the world. Helicopters are used to put the cranes in.
Sequence of shots with gondola and cooler bag
Equipment can be easily loaded from the ground
Safe access! to 1 hectare of forest 50 metres up!
Scientists are still creating new inventions to reach the canopy. COPAS ‘Copas’ is being built in French Guiana.
The Canopy Glider is a new canopy exploration vehicle to be tested by the Canopy Consortium.
So what have scientists discovered about the canopy?
Many new and strange species!
Moths from enchanted canopy
On Project IBISCA Andreas Floren collects insects by fogging tree crowns with ‘pyrethrum’ which only stuns them. They fall to the ground. Most wake up and escape, but some are collected and preserved for study.
40 taxonomists took part in this major study of life on earth, in Panama 2004/5. 1 million specimens have to be identiﬁed.
Many canopy insect species have never been seen or described by scientists before. In some Asian forests it can be 70-80% of the catch!
From studies like this, scientists now believe that 40% of all terrestrial biodiversity exists in the canopy.
What about under the soil or sea? Best global estimate? 5-15 million species exist on earth. The truth lies in the canopy.
Nobody knows that either!
How did evolution design this species?
Weird eyed inesct Catydid 1/2/ pics
The canopy is a place full of complexity. It is a powerhouse of interactions between animals and plants.
The Canopy is the primary interface between life and the atmosphere for 90% of the world’s living Life and the atmosphere biomass. Clouds and forests / mist water droplets This makes it very important for understanding how the Biosphere interacts with the Atmosphere. The Amazon is probably one of the world’s greatest Biosphere-Atmosphere Hotspots.
We have learned to respect the canopy.
John misty pictures
It can be a dangerous place to work, unless safe methods are used.
Canopy explorers are pioneers!
It is also a new frontier for discovery!
An inspires… the human heart
The forest canopy is one of the most beautiful places on earth to explore.river in Borneo Balloon and
It is full of surprises!
A three toed sloth high above ground.
Post card sloth
Why are Forest Canopies So Important?
- 40% of species on earth’s surface - Value to medicine & agriculture unknown - Destroying canopies alters evolution forever
Inﬂuence hydrology and precipitation over 45M ha of land - Rising CO2 alters canopy function - ‘Green ocean clouds’ created by VOC’s may be disrupted
Pollination services valued at US$12 billion per annum Carbon sequestration trading valued at US$3Trillion Flowering patterns disrupted by global change Flood risk / disease could increase with impacts on canopy
Source: OZANNE et al. (2003) Biodiversity meets the atmosphere: A global view of forest canopies. SCIENCE 301
Millions of tons of carbon stored in wood is released into the atmosphere when trees are burned.
This increases Global warming.
Towers like these on the Large Scale Biological Assessment (LBA) in the Amazon measure the movement (ﬂuxes) of gases such as carbon dioxide, oxygen and water vapour in and out of the forest.
For over 400,000 years there has been about 240 parts per Dr Antonio million of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere. Nobre, a the instrument on this tower is showing it has Today researcher at risen to 381 ppm. INPA, Much of this is due to emissions from human activity. National
Institute for Amazonian Research, takes a reading from a gas analyser on a 55 metre tower, north of Manaus.
Lemuroid Ringtail Possum - BIOCLIM Model
Present + 1 deg. + 3.5 deg.
In Queensland, Australia, computer models of climate change predict that many species could die out because their habitat (red colour) may dry out in the next 46%50-80 years.. 0% Could a similar process happen in the Amazon?
Ref: Williams, SE. (2003) A Report to the Biological Diversity Advisory Committee, Environment Australia, Canberra
To investigate some of these problems canopy scientists decided the set up the..
A groundbreaking initiative linking major studies of forest canopies addressing biodiversity and climate change worldwide.
They set out to link canopy studies Worldwide and create a research plan
The GCP Steering Committee and Focal countries
• Dr Pierre Charles Dominique, COPAS, France • Professor Roger Kitching, Grifﬁth University, Australia • Professor Nigel Stork, James Cook University, Australia • Dr Tohru Nakashizuka, Kyoto University, Japan • Professor Dieter Anhuf, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil • Talita Fontoura, University de Estadual, Brazil • Dr Joe Wright, STRI, Smithsonian, Panama • Andrew Mitchell, Director, Global Canopy Foundation, UK • Dr Margaret Lowman, Marie Selby Botanical Garden, USA • Dr Nalini Nadkarni, Evergreen State University, USA • Professor Cao Min Xishuangbanna Botanical Garden, China
GCP published its new 20:20 Vision for Canopy Science in 2003.
GCP 20:20 Vision for Canopy Science
• Five focal countries: Brazil, Ghana, Madagascar, Malaysia, India • Targeted research, designed to investigate impact of climate change on canopy biodiversity using ‘whole forest observatories’. • Demonstration projects on value of canopy ecotourism and canopy horticulture for sustainable development of local communities • Monitoring and early warning assessment network • • • • Information to key stakeholders including governments Phase I - Scoping the project 2001-4 Phase II - Testing and ﬁnancing 2005-7 Phase III - Begin Project Implementation 2008….
Climbing GCP is now helping to expertise support FCO logo training courses in Brazil, Darwin and other countries.
At University of Ouro Preto with funding from the Brasilan and British governments. (UK Foreign and Commonwealth Ofﬁce - Global Opportunities Fund) ..and other donors.
GCP Basic Canopy Access Proﬁciency (BCAP) Courses enable students and professionals to learn modern safe methods of accessing the forest canopy.
GCP is also helping to develop canopy ecotourism to provide sustainable development opportunities for local communities worldwide.
Model for a canopy ecotourism project planned for Madagascar
Interpretaion Centre Field Station
Research Forest Restoration Capacity Building Satellite Mapping
In 2005 GCP received UN Backing for a major new initiative:
Whole Forest Observatories: a global network for monitoring canopy biodiversity and climate change
GEF Agency - UNEP United Nations Environment Programme IEA (International Execution Agency)
GCP - UK Global Canopy Programme
Current NEAs (National Execution Agencies)
Brazil - INPA Nat. Inst for Amazonian Res. Ghana - CSIR Council for Scientiﬁc and Industrial Res. India - ATREE Ashoka Trust for Res. in Ecol. and the Env. Madagascar - MICET Madagascar Inst. For Cons. of the Trop. Env. Malaysia - ITBC Institute for Tropical Biology Conservation.
The Global Canopy Research Network.
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Existing Canopy Cranes
GCP Proposed new Canopy Cranes New UNEP/GCP Whole,Forest Observatories
Existing Fluxnet Towers
With UNEP, GCP is planning a network of ‘Whole Forest Observatories’ across the tropics. In Brazil Ghana, India, Malaysia and later China.
A canopy crane will provide access - from leaf tip to root tip - at each Observatory. Targeted research, training and community development projects will be carried out at each site and at associated sites.
The Budget? It is a lot of money. But…It is less than half of what a major international footballer gets paid. Who can say whose game has more value?
How much do we value Life and our Atmosphere.. for People? A challenge for our future, ..in the canopy high frontier!