Let's get serious... I'm here in French Guiana to do some fieldwork for my master thesis. It situates within the whole climate change question. Climate change is mostly due to the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere. Many papers suggest that forests all over the world could now take up more CO2 and grow taller, solving a little part of the problem. A lot of studies are done on temperate and boreal forests, but not many on tropical forests. So our project is quite innovatory, which makes it ultra-exiting. Prof. Ivan Janssens (UA), my promotor, and many of his colleagues started the project IMBALANCE-P. In short, this project tries "to quantify the responses of ecosystems and society in a world increasingly rich in N(itrogen) and C(arbon) but limited in P(hosphorus)." In other words, they suggest that although N and C are increasing in the atmosphere and soil (because of fertilisation and human activities), the forests will not grow taller, because a deficit of P. Phosphorus is not present in the atmosphere, but only in the soil, weathered from the bedrock and is thus limited. So P is in an imbalance with the increasing N and C.
So what am I doing in this whole story?
I am working together with the PhD student Lore Verryckt (UA) to test differences in photosynthetic parameters between trees along a Phosphorus gradient in some tropical rain forests. With this we want to prove that Phosphorus is the limiting factor for growth.
Of course there is a lot more to it than this, but I'll leave the rest of the explanation for my paper ;)
So how are we doing this?
This is my lab in Paracou. Sweet isn't it! The machines we're working with are portable photosynthesis systems (Li-cors) and they generate a lot of data from the branches and leaves we collect inside the forest.
And again, there's a lot more to it, but I will not explain everything, just show you some pictures.
In the forest we take pictures of the branches right above our plot, so we can calculate the LAI (Leaf Area Index), an index we use to characterise the canopy (could be a determining factor).
Because the forest is a long drive from the campus, we stay overnight. We sleep in hammocks out in the open.
In and around the forest we see some amazing things!
Tarantula in the dining room!
This beautiful lady...
This amazing little flower.
And many more (agouti, agouti paca, deer, parrots, lizards, spiders, butterflies, ...) !