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Scientific Expedition to Discover a Patagonian Island
Botanical Adventure and Exploration of Isla Magdalena
Starting in the Chilean summer of January 2010, a group of explorers will
set out on an extraordinary expedition. They will be trail blazing into the
unexplored interior of a 790-square mile Patagonian island. Based upon total
lack of evidence of previous habitation, they may be the first humans ever
to enter this rugged interior in recorded history! Do you want to be part of
this history in the making, like Lewis and Clark?
We are looking for explorers interested in being part of a scientific
expedition and botanical adventure of a lifetime. We will journey into the
center of an apparently never explored island, cataloging plants and animal
life. We will view volcanic landscapes and vertical cliffs that very
recently (geologically speaking) erupted from the ocean. The volcanic
landscape combined with one of the few remaining untouched large-scale
temperate rain forests makes this expedition a living adventure. We may be
the first ever to discover two sub-alpine lakes in the center of the island!
Your guide for this botanical adventure will be the botanist Howie
Brounstein, who was part of the original international team of scientists
participating in the rapid biological assessment of the Isla Magdalena
Ecological Reserve in 1995.
In collaboration with the Chilean government, we'll survey and officially
name these lakes, and open the area up for further research, respect, and
protection by other members of the international scientific community.
This fjordal island, situated at 44 1/2 degrees south latitude, is one of
Chile's largest islands and an important surviving remnant of the region's
once-extensive, high biomass, archipelagic temperate rainforest. It is of
ecological, geomorphological, and socio-economic importance.
Geologically Magdalena is a fjord-incised, uplifting crustal fragment
separated from the continent by a narrow channel. Because of active faulting
there are several thermal springs on the shore and perhaps in the interior
as well. In the center of the peninsula is a broad, high sub-alpine plateau
with small lakes, and marshes. We will attempt to explore this area. This
plateau may be major bird habitat. The island in general may have a large
Pudu (miniature deer) population. The rich marine environment of the island
hosts the archipelago's largest sea lion colonies as well as penguins and
various cetaceous species.
Few primary forests today extend from the mountains to the sea. In terms of
low-elevation, high-biomass forest, Isla Magdalena is ecologically
priceless. Extensive primary forest, the island ecosystem is truly an
ancient habitat with exemplary stands of giant cypress, manio and southern
beeches, with canelo, ulmo, tepu, and luma, growing in various associations
within the pristine and unexplored peninsula's interior. Isla Magdalena is
one of the last intact habitats of the relict Guaiteca Cypress.
The nutritious and oxygen-rich surrounding seawaters are of economic
importance to the region, which has the best fishing in the area. Shellfish
projects show a growth rate twice that of normal, explained by the fact that
the warm Peru-Chile Current meets the colder, nutrient-laden Magellan
Current around Isla Magdalena's latitude.
Forest ecologists now realize the importance of whole landscapes in
understanding forest ecosystems. Isla Magdalena is one of the few remaining
large-scale temperate rainforest tracts where landscape-level study of
intact systems remains possible. The maintenance and study of large intact
areas like Isla Magdalena are essential.
This area is very similar to the northwest coast of North America, only
without the large population and environmental damage. The similar climate
has led to a similar environment. Many plants have almost the same leaves
and size, and grow in a similar habitat as their North American
counterparts, but the flowers are completely different, and the plants are
botanically unrelated. This is called convergent evolution, where unrelated
plants evolve into the similar shapes.
The initial research will include a botanical survey. The island?s coastal
regions have only been slightly botanized, and the interior completely
unexplored. We have hopes to extend the known ranges of some species, and
get baseline botanical data for the islands interior ecosystems. We may
discover new species of plants found only in the isolated sections of the
island! We will collect and press unidentified plants and take them back to
the herbarium in Santiago for later identification. We will collect DNA
samples of selected plant specimens.
Participants will catalog their experiences through critical observation and
maintaining a personal journal of the expedition.
Future research of the interior of the island could include surveys of bird,
animals, amphibians, and other life forms. This could potentially open the
island to globally significant research, i.e., past climate change,
comparison of temperate rainforests to North American counterparts, and a
reference point for global warming research.
Check out our new website at http://www.botanicalstudies.net for more
Columbines School of Botanical Studies
PO Box 50532
Eugene, Oregon 97405
mailto:howieb from botanicalstudies.nethttp://www.botanicalstudies.net
"It's easy to harvest wild plants, the hard part is not harvesting."