African Tropical Rainforest Observation Network

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February 2013

Simon Lewis went to Mont du Cristal – the site of the opening sequences of the BBC’s Congo program – to train a new fieldteam led by Aida Cuni Sanchez. These coastal, mountainous forests are wet all year round, and it was wet. It is a somewhat surprising forest – dominated by a species from the family Dipterocarpaceae. Yes, the dominant family of SE Asian rainforests are also represented in Africa.  By chance, wandering in the rain we meet Dutch botanist, Jan Weringa, who helps us a lot with our unidentified newly recruited species. And maybe there is a new species in one of our plots. We’ll see. We come away with now 15 years of high quality data, the first census of which was led by Terry Sunderland, from CIFOR (International Centre for Forestry), and a Cameroonian-Gabonese team.


January 2013

Simon Lewis went to Banyang Mbo Wildlife reserve in the eastern English-speaking part of Cameroon, to train the new European Research Council T-FORCES project post-docs, Wannes Hubau and Lan Qie. We are accompanied by Leeds’ best field technician, Martin Gilpin, who will teach the post-docs soil sampling protocols. Following a day’s trek with 18 porters carrying enough food and equipment to say for 3 weeks, we got lost finding the place to camp. We spend two nights in makeshift camps in the forest. Finally we find the plot we need to measure and make a comfortable base for the next 18 days or so. Training goes well, and Simon and Lan Qie leave back to the UK, while Wannes and Serge continue recensusing plots further up the mountain, and establishing a few more. After more than two months of camping, the team leave, have established an altitudinal transect of plots, from <200 meters above sea-level to nearly 1,000 meters, complete with soil samples taken. The rise in temperature going down that altitudinal range is about 4 degrees C, which may provide important information on the responses of forest to higher temperatures.  


February 2011

Simon Lewis attended a workshop and then led training sessions for teams of students from Gabon’s School of Water and Forests, to then select teams to be employed on Gabon’s grand plan ‘Project LiDAR,’ which is mapping the forests of Gabon for carbon and biodiversity, using ground plots and airborne LiDAR.  Starting with three teams of six, teams spend a day with me, installing a plot, then later teams re-measure the others’ plots, to then discuss their decisions as to what they do. The 12 with the greatest aptitude were then selected to work on the LiDAR project. 


January 2011

Simon Lewis travelled to the northern part of the Republic of Congo, to train Serge Kouob, Greta Dargie and Ifo Suspense in plot set-up and measurements. This included the first standardised plot measurements in the swamps of the central Congo Basin. Plots were installed in two sites, Ekolongoma, south of the town of Impfondo down the Ubangi River, and North East of Epena, accessed by the upper reaches of the Likouala river. A touch place to work, too many bees, and hard to find water that is not full of peat! But rewarding to work somewhere with 


July 2009

Simon Lewis travelled to Lope World Heritage Site in central Gabon to train field-teams in data collection. Fantastic to be measuring plots set up in the early 1990’s by Lee White, across the full spectrum of tree density from savannah through to dense forest. Elephants were seen in the forest, and up close at the camp. Unfortunately Simon contracted ‘Congo Red Fever’ (Chikunguna), a relative of Dengue Fever, so training was cut rather short. Geertje van der Heijden-Corr and Murray Collins then continued with remeasurments of the full suite of plots across the forest-savanna landscape.