Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Borneo giants

This past month we've been working in Borneo, at a couple of sites including Sepilok and now Danum Valley. Both sites lie within the Sabah region of Malaysia, on the island of Borneo - somewhere I've always wanted to visit. Andy and Matheus started things off, and then I joined Andy, along with Toby Jackson from Yadvinder Malhi's group at Oxford. Toby is looking at the structural response of trees to wind flex measured using accelerometers, and by building CAD models. Toby is using our TLS data to help to build more realistic models, and he was helping us out with our scanning at Sepilok, and in return we are scanning some of his instrumented trees at Danum Valley.

The site at Sepilok has some of the largest trees I've seen in the tropics so far - we don't know yet hoe large the largest are, but I'm guessing a tree like this one will be nearly 60 m. Once we have processed the TLS data, we'll know for sure!

One of the large trees in a Permanent Sample Plot at Sepilok.

Another pretty large tree.

As for Danum, this is the location of the so-called 'tallest tree in the tropics'. There's been a bit of to and fro over the title of late. David Coomes, a colleague from Cambridge, found a Yellow Maranti tree of 89.5 m (dubbed the 'Minecraft Tree') using NERC ARF airborne lidar data collected for our teams in 2014. Then, along comes another colleague, Greg Asner from Stanford, with his Carnegie Airborne Observatory and finds many more trees over 90 m in the same area, including one of 94 m

The tallest tree in the tropics, another Yellow Meranti, shown in the CAO lidar data. Image: Nick Vaughn, Carnegie Institution for Science.
The tree's location has been kept quiet (for obvious reasons) but Toby managed to get out to see it - and here it is. It's very hard to judge the size without scale, but it's incredible how straight and even the trunk is. It's easy to see why trees like that are prized for their timber.

The largest tree in the tropics. Photo by Toby Jackson.
Not a tree, but a rather magnificent palm next to the field station.

 It's warm work, and on some of the steepest terrain we've worked on so far - slopes of 50 degrees at times. Who on earth would put a sample plot in such a place?? Simon ..... I'm looking at you.

Another tropical forest selfie - with Andy and Toby. We're dripping with sweat and we've only just arrived in the plot. I wasn't even carrying the lidar - I'm too old for that now ;-)