Lawrence Glacy hammers away at a lichen sample.
View of Isla Santa Cruz.
Photo by Dustin Wood.
Team Botany resting. Photo by Jorge Villaviencio.
Small ranch that provided water to the research teams. Photo by Dustin Wood.
North facing wall in the Los Dolores region. Photo by Jorge Villaviencio.
Dr. José Delgadillo makes samples along cliff face. Photo by Jorge
After a few days of long hours and constant work, the majority of the
research crews stayed in camp to prepare specimens, take photographs,
and write fieldnotes. It has also given me the chance to catch up with
my own chores. Unfortunately, the satellites have not been good to me
tonight and I’ve been having technical difficulties sending today’s
daily logs off. I have to keep reminding myself that this is Baja and
things will eventually work themselves out.
I’ve asked many of the biologists to give me reports and I’ve included
them in my daily logs. While at base-camp, I’ve asked the researchers
to type up some updates on their activities. One of our specialists is
Lawrence Glacy, a mycologist from Sonoma State University, who has been
sampling the region’s lichens, algae, and fungi. Lawrence has been
hammering away at lichen-covered rocks for the last few days and his
activities have been over-shadowed by some of the large research teams.
Yet, it is the little things that often drive the processes of the
The lichens collected over the past two days were principally crustose.
A few specimens collected from the bark and twigs of the local flora,
including the Ironwood tree, were easily removed. However, most of the
specimens have been attached to rocks and many of those were so adhered
to the rock that only by removing the rock could we collect the sample.
At the end of the first day, with hammer and chisel, I returned late in
the evening with approximately 35 pounds of crustose and squamulose
lichen specimens. While the determination of species will require
additional laboratory examination with chemical and microscopic
examination, a preliminary examination suggests that we have specimens
which may be included in the genus Aspiclia, Toninia, Synalissa,
Rocella, Rimelia, Xanthoria, Direna, Pseudopeltula from the first and
second days efforts.
On the third day we were able to reach a wall of conglamorate rock
material, after a four hour climb to the La Piedro Solo at 1470 meters,
where additional and numerous new specimens were collected. With the
north facing slopes providing shade, and the altitude offering
increased moisture, a great diversity of lichen were found. They likely
include some in the genus Megaspora, Melanelia, Ochrolechia, Panneria,
Pertusaria, Phaeophysia and perhaps a foliose Physia.
Lichens offer us a means to biomonitor the health the environment.
Surveying the total diversity of lichen in the Sierra de La Giganta
region is key to the success of the region’s conservation. The
potential for future applications of the work we are doing is
significant and the knowledge gained can potentially contribute to our
understanding of global warming, ecology of ecosystems, and for
assessing environmental quality by using lichen species. All of these
are due to the ease of sequestration of minerals unique to the lichen.
Update From Team Botany
On 10 November 2003 the botany team made 42 different collections in
San Clemente Canyon which is a side canyon just to the south of Misión
Dolores. The most significant discoveries were of large populations of
the locally endemic species Eucnide tenella, which was found on the
previous day, but only in one small population on one boulder. We also
encountered a rather unique plant community growing at the base of a
very large cliff face which was made up of several plant species
endemic only to Baja California Sur that included Drymaria debilis, Lopezia clavata, Eucnide tenella, Marsdenia carterae (only recently
described for science), Machaeranthera pinnatifida ssp. scabrella, Stachys coccinea, Perityle lobata, Phacelia scariosa, and Agave
gigantensis. The best natural history observation of the day was for
the rare and endemic Perityle lobata in the Sunflower family
(Asteraceae) that grows directly on the vertical rock faces in this
area. It appears that this cliff species also “plants itself” back into
the rock walls like Eucnide tenella (discussed on the previous day) by
recurving its pedicels back toward the substrate after pollination thus
allowing its seeds to fall closer to the cliff and into its preferred
habitat. This means that two different locally endemic plant species in
two different plant families (Asteraceae and Loasaceae) have evolved
similar reproductive strategies in this region in order to facilitate
life on a cliff face.
On 11 November 2003 the botany team made the long and arduous hike to
the lakes in Valle de Kakiwi. We collected 36 different plants along
the way and discovered an annual plant community at the edge of the
lake similar to the vernal pool vegetation of California, but different
in being composed of regional endemics like Euphorbia pumicicola, Conobea polystachya, Chloris brandegeei, and Marina vetula. The
presence of water in this lake is very different than that of the
vernal pools of California which normally hold water each year after
the winter rains because the only times this lake holds significant
water is when hurricanes pass over the area. This hurricane driven
system does not occur on a regular basis so the plants and animals of
the region have adapted to life strategies that apparently allow for
long term dormancy between major rainfalls. In fact, the local guide
who led us to the lake told us that the last time he saw significant
water in this lake was 15 years earlier. It is possible that many of
the annual plant species that we encountered around the lake’s edge may
have been dormant since that time. The discovery of Euphorbia
pumicicola (described for the first time in the 1980’s) in this
community is very important because it was previously only known from
two populations much further north in the state of Baja California Sur.
It may be present on other remote mesa tops in this region but due to
their inaccessibility and this species’ irregular response to rains
from hurricane events it might be a long time before we can accurately
assess the distribution of this plant species.
To date, we have now made 123 different plant collections from this
area in the last three days bringing the total number of plants
documented from the Agua Verde/Cerro Mechudo Corridor to 421 taxa.
However, we are still expecting to find many more new plant records in
the upcoming days of the expedition.
From camp at 12:15am