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[Plant-biology] Scientific Expedition to Discover a Patagonian Island

Howie Brounstein via plantbio%40net.bio.net (by howieb from botanicalstudies.net)
Fri Dec 25 21:22:13 EST 2009

Discounts available for schools ands environmental organizations.

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.

Isla Magdalena

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.

Scientific Research

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.net

"It's easy to harvest wild plants, the hard part is not harvesting."

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