Carnegie Airborne Observatory visits our area

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Carnegie Airborne Observatory image of rainforest trees; different colors represent different spectral fingerprints. Click picture to enlarge. Image: Carnegie Institution for Science.

The Carnegie Institution for Science is a unique private organization devoted to advanced study of the earth, life, and the universe. The pioneer cosmologist Edwin Hubble (“Hubble constant”), geologist Charles Richter (“Richter scale”), geneticist Barbara McClintock, and many Nobel laureates from several different disciplines are or were Carnegie investigators. The institution has instruments orbiting Mercury, is a lead partner in constructing the world’s biggest telescope in Chile, and has one of the world’s most sophisticated ecological monitoring devices, the Carnegie Aerial Observatory (CAO). This is a two-engine 20-passenger plane that Greg Asner and colleagues has fitted with millions of dollars worth of specially-designed lasers and spectrometers. It can sample hundreds of thousands of hectares of forest per day, using LIDAR to build a 3-dimensional model of the forest’s trees with 8 cm resolution. At the same time as it acquires LIDAR data, it also samples the spectral properties of light reflected from the vegetation, gathering reflectance information at hundreds of different wavelengths (colors). This spectral data gives information about the chemical and physical properties of the leaves, and also provides a spectral fingerprint that can later be matched to field-collected spectral fingerprints from known species of trees. Some  trees have such distinctive fingerprints that they can be identified to species with this data; more commonly, they can be identified to genus, though sometimes only to family. The detailed structural, chemical and taxonomic data acquired by the CAO would be impossible to gather at the landscape level by any other method, and Greg’s work is dramatically expanding the range of questions that ecologists can ask about forest ecosystems.

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Carnegie aerial observatory rainforest image: 3-D Lidar combined with spectral signal. Image: Carnegie Institution for Science.

Last year Greg had planned to use our mosaic of forests as reference sites for a study of Andean forests on different geological substrates and elevations.  Greg and his partner Robin Martin visited our Rio Zunac Reserve, his flight plans got approved by the Ecuadorian authorities, and everything seemed ready to go, but in the end he was not allowed to bring the plane into the country. This year, however, Greg was able to bring the plane in for a more modest ten-day study of Amazonia. The plane’s home for those ten days was the military base in Shell, a town in the upper Rio Pastaza watershed near our Rio Anzu Reserve. One of the CAO’s flight transects covered a two-kilometer wide strip from west to east (high to low) through our area, perhaps including parts of up to four of our reserves. This will be a very valuable data set that will teach us a great deal about the structure and diversity of these forests. However, it will take about a year to fully process the data, so we’ll have to be patient.

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The Carnegie Airborne Observatory parked at the Shell military base. Our reserves are in the mountains in the background. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

The president of the Carnegie Institution for Science, Matt Scott, is a well-known geneticist and serious photographer. He came t0 Ecuador last month to fly with Greg, but first he wanted to visit some of our reserves. Our endangered Black-and-chestnut Eagles (Spizaetus isidori) were nesting again in our Rio Zunac Reserve after last year’s tragic nest failure, so this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to observe the species as it went about its business.

I picked him up in the Quito airport. The trip from Quito to Banos was picturesque as always. The glacier of Cotopaxi was covered in a layer of fresh volcanic ash, and small puffs of ash and vapor were still rising up from the crater as we drove past it.

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Cotopaxi’s glaciers covered in fresh ash. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

 

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Close to sunset as we neared Banos after passing through a rainstorm. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

The next day we had an appointment with the Black-and-chestnut Eagles at 10am-11am. Our guards told us the parents  usually brought prey to the baby at that time, but were otherwise rarely seen around the nest. The nest is about 3-4 hours away from the road, after a forty minute drive from Banos, so we had to get up early and rush out there. It was hard to keep up  a good pace, since beautiful things kept distracting us. Still, we managed to get to the nest observation spot at almost exactly 11:00, and sure enough, there was the adult in the nest, along with the chick and something dead. The adult flew off almost immediately but shortly returned to feed on the prey item while the sated chick slept. The other adult was also nearby and both called frequently. We spent an hour watching them. It was a wonderful thing to see.

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This was the view when Matt got to my house to start our trip to the Rio Zunac. Volcan Tungurahua with a lenticular cloud against a crystal sky, a great way to start the day. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

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Morning fog over the Rio Pastaza. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

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Black-and-chestnut Eagle (Spizaetus isidori) at its nest in our Rio Zunac Reserve. Photo: Matt Scott.

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We saw several Highland Motmots. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

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Torrent Ducks on the Rio Zunac distracted us throughout the day. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

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We found this crazy katydid at the end of our walk. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

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Butterflies and hesperids taking salts from the sand along the Rio Zunac. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

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Matt chills out in the Rio Zunac after our hike. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Lou Jost.

 

The next day we went to our Rio Anzu Reserve near the Shell airport and the CAO. That reserve is not very rich in big stuff, but there are so many interesting small things that it is hard to take ten steps without stopping for photos. We eventually got to the Rio Anzu river and the magnificent fossil-bearing limestone formations capped with ladyslipper orchids (Phragmipedium pearcei). Though it was getting late, Matt asked to stay longer. I always like to hear that from a visitor!!

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Matt photographing the limestone. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

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The limestone formations along the Rio Anzu, covered with orchids. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

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Phragmipedium pearcei, a ladyslipper orchid, on the limestone. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

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Riodinid butterfly in the Rio Anzu Reserve. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

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Large hairy caterpillar. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

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Me in bamboo forest along the Rio Anzu. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

Then we went to the military base to see the CAO. Security was tight and the military were not eager to let a pair of muddy rubber-booted gringos walk through their installations. Nevertheless we were able to talk our way through the multiple layers of officials who scrutinized us. But we didn’t want to ruffle any feathers so when we finally got to the plane, we just took a quick look at it and went back (still under military escort, but actually a very friendly one).

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CAO at the military base. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

By the time we got to Greg and Robin’s hotel in nearby Puyo it was already dark. Greg was sitting at a table outside working on maps in his laptop, and he showed me the transects he had flown so far. I went back to Banos that night but Matt stayed and got to fly in the CAO over the following days. Lucky man!

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Matt (left) and Greg happy to be in the air. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

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The Rio Pastaza broadens and meanders as it leaves our mountains and enters Amazonia. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

 

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The Amazon basin from the CAO. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

 

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More of the Amazon basin from the CAO. Click picture to enlarge. Photo: Matt Scott.

Matt, thanks very much for your visit! It was an honor for us to show you our forests.

Lou Jost

Fundacion EcoMinga

 

 

El Observatorio Aerotransportado Carnegie visita nuestra área

 

IMG 01 – Imágenes del Observatorio Aerotransportado Carnegie de árboles de bosque lluvioso; diferentes colores representan diferentes firmas espectrales. Haga click en la imagen para agrandar.
 
El Instituto para la Ciencia Carnegie es una organización privada única dedicada al estudio avanzado de la tierra, la vida y el universo. El cosmólogo pionero Edwin Hubble (“constante de Hubble”), el geólogo Charles Ritcher (“Escala de Ritcher”), la genetista Bárbara McClintock y muchos otros premios Nobel de diversas disciplinas son o fueron investigadores de Carnegie. La institución tiene instrumentos orbitando Mercurio, es un patrocinador líder en la construcción del telescopio más grande del mundo  en Chile, y tiene uno de los más sofisticados dispositivos de monitoreo ecológico, el Observatorio Aéreo Carnegie (CAO). Este es un avión bimotor de veinte pasajeros que Greg Asner y sus colegas han adaptado con millones de dólares en láseres y espectrómetros especialmente diseñados. Puede muestrear cientos de miles de hectáreas de bosque por día, usando LIDAR para construir un modelo tridimensional de los árboles del bosque con 8 cm de resolución. Al mismo tiempo que adquiere datos LIDAR, también toma muestras de las propiedades espectrales de la luz reflejada por la vegetación, recolectando información de reflectancia en cientos de diferentes longitudes de onda (colores). Estos datos espectrales brindan información acerca de las propiedades físicas y químicas de las hojas, y también provee una firma espectral que puede ser después emparejada para las firmas espectrales colectadas en campo de especies de árboles conocidas. Algunos árboles tienen firmas distintivas que pueden ser identificadas a nivel de especies con estos datos; más comúnmente, ellos pueden identificar el género, aunque a veces solo a familia. Los datos estructurales, químicos y taxonómicos detallados obtenidos por la CAO serían imposibles de recopilar a nivel de paisaje por cualquier otro método, y el trabajo de Greg está ampliando drásticamente la gama de preguntas que los ecologistas pueden hacer acerca de los ecosistemas forestales. 
 
IMG 02 – Imagen del bosque lluvioso del Observatorio Aéreo Carnegie: Lidar 3-D combinado con la firma espectral. Imagen: Instituto para la ciencia Carnegie
 
El año anterior, Greg había planeado usar nuestro mosaico de bosques como sitios de referencia para un estudio de los bosques Andinos en diferentes sustratos geológicos y elevaciones. Greg y su compañero Robin Martin visitaron nuestra Reserva Río Zuñac, su vuelo planeaba ser aprobado por las autoridades ecuatorianas, y todo parecía estar listo para arrancar, pero al final no fue permitido traer el avión al país. Este año, de todos modos, Greg pudo traer el avión en un estudio más modesto de diez días de la Amazonía. El hogar del avión durante esos diez días fue la base militar en Shell, una ciudad en la cuenca alta del río Pastaza, cerca de nuestra Reserva Río Anzu. Uno de los transectos de vuelo de CAO cubrió una banda de dos kilómetros de ancho de este a oeste (alto a bajo) a través de nuestra área, quizás incluyendo partes de más de cuatro de nuestras reservas. Este será un conjunto de datos muy valioso que nos enseñará mucho acerca de la estructura y diversidad de estos bosques. De todos modos, tomará casi un año para procesar los datos completamente, así que tendremos que ser pacientes. 
 
IMG 03 – El Observatorio Aerotransportado Carnegie estacionado en la base militar de Shell. Nuestras reservas están en las montañas del fondo *del último plano*. Haga click en la imagen para agrandar. Fotografía: Matt Scott.
 
El presidente del Instituto para la Ciencia Carnegie, Matt Scott, es un genetista bien conocido y un fotógrafo serio. Él vino a Ecuador el mes anterior para volar con Greg, pero primero quiso visitar algunas de nuestras reservas. Nuestra Águila Andina (Black-and-chestnut Eagles / Spizaetus isidori) estaba anidando de nuevo en nuestra Reserva Río Zuñac después del trágico fracaso del nido del año pasado, así que esta fue una oportunidad única en la vida para observar la especie mientras realizaba sus actividades *mientras estaba en lo suyo*. 
 
Lo recogí del aeropuerto de Quito. El viaje de Quito a Baños fue pintoresco como siempre. El glaciar de Cotopaxi fue cubierto en una capa de fresca ceniza volcánica, y pequeñas bocanadas de ceniza y vapor todavía se elevaban desde el cráter cuando lo pasamos
 
IMG 04 – Glaciares del Cotopaxi cubiertos con ceniza reciente. Haga click en la imagen para agrandar. Fotografía: Matt Scott.
 
IMG 05 – Cerca de la puesta de sol a medida que nos acercábamos a Baños, después de pasar a través de una tormenta lluviosa. Haga click en la imagen para agrandar. Fotografía: Matt Scott.
 
Al siguiente día tuvimos una cita con el Águila Andina entre las 10 am y 11 am. Nuestros guardabosques nos dijeron que los padres usualmente traían presas al pichón a esa hora, pero de otra forma rara vez se veían alrededor del nido. El nido está a unas tres o cuatro horas de la carretera, después de un viaje de cuarenta minutos en coche desde Baños, así que tuvimos que levantarnos temprano y salir corriendo. Era difícil mantener un buen ritmo, ya que las cosas bonitas nos distraían. Aún así, logramos llegar al lugar de observación del nido casi exactamente a las 11:00 y, efectivamente, estaba el adulto en el nido, junto con el polluelo y con algo muerto. El adulto voló casi de inmediato, pero regreso prontamente para alimentarse de la presa mientras el polluelo dormía. El otro adulto también estaba cerca y ambos llamaban con frecuencia. Pasamos una hora mirándolos. Fue maravilloso de ver.
 
IMG 06 – Esta era la vista cuando Matt llegó a mi casa para comenzar nuestro viaje al Río Zuñac. El volcán Tungurahua con una nube lenticular contra un cielo cristalino, una excelente manera de comenzar el día. Haga click en la imagen para agrandar. Fotografía: Matt Scott.
 
IMG 07 – La niebla matutina sobre el Río Pastaza. Haga click en la imagen para agrandar. Fotografía: Matt Scott.
 
IMG 08 – Águila andina (Black-and-chestnut Eagles / Spizaetus isidori) en su nido en nuestra Reserva Río Zuñac. Fotografía: Matt Scott.
IMG 09 – Vimos bastantes Momotos montañeros (Highland Motmots / Momotus aequatorialis). Fotografía: Lou Jost / EcoMinga
 
IMG 10 – Patos torrenteros (Torrent Ducks / Merganetta armata) en Río Zuñac nos distrajeron a lo largo del día. Haga click en la imagen para agrandar. Fotografía: Matt Scott.
 
IMG 11 – Encontramos este loco saltamontes longicorno (katydid) al final de nuestra caminata. Haga click en la imagen para agrandar. Fotografía: Lou Jost / EcoMinga
 
IMG 12 – Mariposas y hespéridos tomando sales de la arena a lo largo del Río Zuñac. Fotografía: Lou Jost / EcoMinga
 
IMG 13 – Matt se relaja en el Río Zuñac después de nuestra caminata. Haga click en la imagen para agrandar. Fotografía: Lou Jost
 
Al día siguiente fuimos a nuestra Reserva Río Anzu cerca del aeropuerto de Shell y el CAO. Esa reserva no es muy rica en cosas grandes, pero hay tantas cosas pequeñas interesantes que es difícil dar diez pasos sin detenerse a tomar fotos. Finalmente llegamos al Río Anzu y las magníficas formaciones de piedra caliza con fósiles coronadas con orquídeas zapatito (Phragmipedium pearcei). Aunque se estaba haciendo tarde, Matt pidió quedarse más tiempo. ¡Siempre me gusta escuchar eso de un visitante!
 
IMG 14 – Matt fotografiando la piedra caliza. Haga click en la imagen para agrandar. Fotografía: Lou Jost / EcoMinga
 
IMG 15 – Las formaciones de piedra caliza a lo largo de Río Anzu, cubierto con orquídeas. Haga click en la imagen para agrandar. Fotografía: Matt Scott.
 
IMG 16 – Phragmipedium pearcei, una orquídea zapatito, en la piedra caliza. Haga click en la imagen para agrandar. Fotografía: Matt Scott.
 
IMG 17 – Mariposa Riodinida en la Reserva Río Anzu. Haga click en la imagen para agrandar. Fotografía: Matt Scott.
 
IMG 18 – Oruga de pelos largos.  Haga click en la imagen para agrandar. Fotografía: Matt Scott.
 
IMG 19 – Yo en el bosque de bambú a lo largo del Río Anzu.  Haga click en la imagen para agrandar. Fotografía: Matt Scott.
 
Entonces fuimos a la base militar para ver el CAO. La seguridad era estricta y los militares no estaban ansiosos por dejar que un par de gringos embarrados con botas de goma caminaran por sus instalaciones. Sin embargo, pudimos seguir nuestro camino a través de las múltiples capas de funcionarios que nos escudriñaron. Pero no queríamos agitaragitar el gallinero, así que cuando finalmente llegamos al avión, le echamos un rápido vistazo y regresamos (todavía bajo la escolta militar, pero muy amistosa en realidad)
 
IMG 20 – CAO en la base militar.  Haga click en la imagen para agrandar. Fotografía: Matt Scott.
 
Cuando llegamos al hotel de Greg y Robin en el cercano Puyo, ya estaba oscuro. Greg estaba sentado en una mesa fuera trabajando en mapas en su computadora portátil, y me mostró los transectos que había volado hasta ese momento. Volví a Baños esa noche, pero Matt se quedó y pudo volar en el CAO durante los días siguientes. ¡Hombre con suerte!
 
IMG 21 – Matt (izquierda) y Greg felices de estar en el aire. Haga click en la imagen para agrandar. Fotografía: Matt Scott.
 
IMG 22 – El Río Pastaza se ensancha y serpentea al dejar nuestras montañas y entrar en la Amazonía. Haga click en la imagen para agrandar. Fotografía: Matt Scott.
 
IMG 23 – La cuenca amazónica desde el CAO. Haga click en la imagen para agrandar. Fotografía: Matt Scott.
 
IMG 24 – Más de la cuenca amazónica desde el CAO. Haga click en la imagen para agrandar. Fotografía: Matt Scott.
 
Matt, ¡muchas gracias por tu visita! Fue un honor para nosotros mostrarles nuestros bosques
 
Lou Jost, Fundación EcoMinga
Traducción: Salomé Solórzano Flores

New species discovered by EcoMinga staff and co-workers, Part 2: Frogs

The first post in this series listed the new plant species discovered by our staff and co-investigators in and around our reserves near Banos, Ecuador. That post showed why our area is a paradise for botanists. It is no accident that this same area is a paradise for herpetologists too, and so this second post is devoted to the new species of frogs that our staff and their co-investigators discovered here. It’s a good time to post this, since our reserve manager Juan Pablo Reyes’ three latest frog discoveries, Pristimantis puruscafeum, Pristimantis marcoreyesi, and Pristimantis punzan, were just published last week (Tres nuevas especies de ranas terrestres Pristimantis (Anura: Craugastoridae) de la cuenca alta del Rio Pastaza, Ecuador: Juan Pablo Reyes-Puig, Carolina Reyes-Puig, Salamon Ramirez-Jaramillo, Maria Perez-L, y Mario Yanez-Munoz).

Pristimantis puruscafeum. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes/EcoMinga.

Pristimantis puruscafeum. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes/EcoMinga.

Pristimantis puruscafeum, was discovered by Juan Pablo in our Cerro Candelaria Reserve. We named it after Puro Coffee, a UK fair-trade coffee company whose very large donation to the World Land Trust allowed us to buy the first (and largest) block of properties for this reserve. It is a high-elevation frog found at 3100m in cold wet cloud forest. This same elevation is an important one for endemic plants in the reserve; it is the exact elevation where the 16 endemic Teagueia orchid species begin to appear on this mountain. We’ve seen this a lot here—the same unusual forests that host many new species of plants often host a new frog or two as well. This shouldn’t be a surprise, since the same evolutionary forces that promoted the speciation of locally endemic cloud forest plants might also be expected to  promote speciation of locally endemic fauna.

This week Andy Orchard of Puro Coffee, his videographer Kendal Kempsey, Juan Pablo, our forest caretakers the Recalde family, and myself will be in Cerro Candelaria looking for this frog, among other things. If we succeed, I’ll post video of it here.

Pristimantis marcoreyesi. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes.

Pristimantis marcoreyesi. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes.

Pristimantis marcoreyesi was named after Juan Pablos’ herpetologist brother, Marco, who died suddenly about a year ago. This species has been found in several locations in western end of the upper Rio Pastaza watershed at elevations around 2700m. Our Cerro Candelaria Reserve protects it as well.

Pristimantis punzan. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes.

Pristimantis punzan. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes.

Pristimantis punzan, the final species of this new publication, is found at about 2700m on the eastern flanks of Volcan Tungurahua in the upper Rio Pastaza watershed. This one has not yet been found in any of our reserves, but the local people of the type locality, Punzan, have been great caretakers of its habitat. Sr Nelson Palacios deserves special recognition for his conservation work and his willingness to help scientists learn about the area.

These three newest species join the following species previously discovered here by Juan Pablo and his colleagues at the Museo Ecuatoriano de Ciencias Naturales. (Special thanks to the director of the museum, Mario Yanez-Muñoz, for his interest in our area and his frequent collaborations with us.)

Pristimantis ardyae. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes/EcoMinga.

Pristimantis ardyae. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes/EcoMinga.

Pristimantis ardyae was discovered in 2012 by Juan Pablo and his colleagues at at 2200m in our Rio Zunac Reserve (Ranas terrestres del género Pristimantis (Anura:Craugastoridae) de la Reserva Ecológica Río Zúñag, Tungurahua, Ecuador: Lista anotada y descripción de una especie nueva: Marco M.Reyes-Puig, Juan Pablo Reyes-Puig, y Mario H. Yánez-Muñoz). It was named after Ardy van Ooij, who along with her husband Henri Botter, have been long-time financial supporters of that reserve. This is another example of the correlation between interesting orchids and interesting frogs; the orchid flora on that mountain changes dramatically around this elevation, with many new and locally endemic species.

Osornophryne simpsoni. Figure 2 of "A new species of Andean toad (Bufonidae, Osornophryne) discovered using molecular and morphological data, with a taxonomic key for the genus." Diego J. Páez-Moscoso, Juan M. Guayasamin, Mario Yánez-Muñoz, ZooKeys 108: 73–97 (2011).

Osornophryne simpsoni. Figure 2 of “A new species of Andean toad (Bufonidae, Osornophryne) discovered using molecular and morphological data, with a taxonomic key for the genus.” Diego J. Páez-Moscoso, Juan M. Guayasamin, Mario Yánez-Muñoz, ZooKeys 108: 73–97 (2011).

Osornophryne simpsonii, discovered by Diego J. Páez-Moscoso, Juan M. Guayasamin, and Mario Yánez-Muñoz (A new species of Andean toad (Bufonidae, Osornophryne) discovered using molecular and morphological data, with a taxonomic key for the genus: Diego J. Páez-Moscoso, Juan M. Guayasamin, Mario Yánez-Muñoz) in the same area, is yet another example of the correlation between distributions of unusual orchids and unusual frogs. This species was named after one of our directors, Nigel Simpson, who has a special interest in frogs and financed much research on them, as well as a book coauthored by Juan Pablo (and with a Foreword by Sir David Attenborough).

Pristimantis bellae. Click to enlarge. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes/EcoMinga.

Pristimantis bellae. Click to enlarge. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes/EcoMinga.

Pristimantis bellae was discovered in 2008 by Juan Pablo and his colleagues in our Cerro Candelaria Reserve at an elevation of 2000m (Una nueva especie de rana Pristimantis (Anura: Craugastoridae)
del corredor ecológico Llangantes-Sangay, Andes de Ecuador: Juan Pablo Reyes-Puig and Mario H. Yánez-Muñoz
). This is named after Hilary Bell, at the time an employee of PricewaterhouseCoopers. When our crew was leaving the then-new Cerro Candelaria Reserve with Andy Orchard of Puro Coffee (see Pristimantis puruscafeum above), we ran into loggers sizing up the neighboring properties (which we also wanted to preserve) to decide whether they were worth buying for their timber. Alarmed, we reached out to the World Land Trust who asked PricewaterhouseCoopers to help us buy this land. Their quick action enabled us to secure this strategic land. We offered to name a frog after them, but they preferred to stage an environmental-themed contest among their employees and name the frog after the winner, who turned out to be Hilary Bell. This frog has since been found in a number of other localities in the upper Rio Pastaza and Rio Napo watersheds.

Pristimantis tungurahua. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes.

Pristimantis tungurahua. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes.

Pristimantis tungurahua was discovered by Juan Pablo and his colleagues in 2007 on the lower flanks of Volcan Tungurahua at about 2700m (Una nueva especie de rana Pristimantis (Terrarana: Strabomantidae) de los bosques nublados de la cuenca alta del río Pastaza, Ecuador: Juan P. Reyes-Puig, Mario H. Yánez-Muñoz, Diego F. Cisneros-Heredia, Salomón Ramírez). Since then it has also been found at similar elevations in other nearby mountains, including our Cerro Candelaria Reserve.

Pristimantis loujostii. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes. (When I first posted this, I posted the wrong picture, an as-yet-undescribed species. Sorry!)

Pristimantis loujostii. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes. (When I first posted this, I posted the wrong picture, an as-yet-undescribed species. Sorry!)

Pristimantis loujostii was discovered by Juan Pablo and his colleagues in 2008 in our Cerro Candelaria Reserve (Una nueva especie de rana terrestre Pristimantis (Anura: Terrarana: Strabomantidae) de la cuenca alta del Río Pastaza, Ecuador: Mario H. Yánez-Muñoz, Diego F. Cisneros-Heredia,and Juan P. Reyes) They decided to surprise me by naming it after me. Many thanks, my friends! That was a very touching surprise.

For those of you who know Spanish, here is a short talk Juan Pablo gave about our reptiles and amphibians during a recent zoology conference in Colombia:

Lou Jost
http://www.ecominga.com
http://www.loujost.com

Terrifying beauty once again

An hour or so after the main explosion. The setting sun and thousands of tons of sulfur dioxide gas turn the vapor clouds yellow-orange, while the thick ash clouds remain black. Photo: Lou Jost

An hour or so after the main explosion. The setting sun and thousands of tons of sulfur dioxide gas turn the vapor clouds yellow-orange, while the thick ash clouds remain black. Photo: Lou Jost

A month ago today our volcano, Tungurahua, exploded with so much energy the debris reached 47,000 ft into the sky. It was one of the most magnificent events in its recent history. And unlike the July event, which was invisible to us because of low clouds, this eruption pierced a crystal blue sky, near sunset. Everything came together to make this one of the most beautiful yet terrifying scenes imaginable.

The first moments of the blast. The ground shook below me as I took this. Photo: Lou Jost

The first moments of the blast. The ground shook below me as I took this. Photo: Lou Jost

The ash cloud from this eruption was especially thick. It fell as far away as Quito a hundred miles to the north, and Cuenca several hundred miles to the south, closing the Cuenca airport. Our reserves once again received only a light dusting of ash, as most of it flew high above our heads. I watched from my house five miles from the crater, and got no ash at all. Juan Pablo Reyes, our reserve manager, was on the next mountain to the east, Chamana, where we have a small reserve, and where he has his own property (which he also runs as a reserve). From there he witnessed the glowing mouth of the volcano as the sun set.

From the Chamana ridge just east of the volcano, the lava still glows as night falls. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes.

From the Chamana ridge just east of the volcano, the lava still glows as night falls. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes.

Spectacular though it was from the perspective of a singe human lifetime, this eruption was just a burp, from a geological perspective. At least twice in geological history this volcano has completely self-destructed: once about 3000 years ago, and once about 75000 years ago. Such massive eruptions would have destroyed all life on the upper parts of the volcano, probably down to 2500-3000m (the current volcano summit is at 5020m). Since evolution takes longer than that to make a new species, we’d expect there should not be species of plants strictly endemic to the high parts of the volcano. Nevertheless a few new species had been discovered there. One, discovered in 1984 by Alex Hirtz, was named after the volcano: Lepanthes tungurahuae. As expected, I eventually found it at high elevations on many of the surrounding mountains, and even much farther away.

Lepanthes tungurahuae was discovered on the lower slopes of Tungurahua volcano, but that population would have been periodically wiped out by eruptions. I found that it actually had a much wider distribution. Photo: Lou Jost.

Lepanthes tungurahuae was discovered on the lower slopes of Tungurahua volcano, but that population would have been periodically wiped out by eruptions. I found that it actually had a much wider distribution. Photo: Lou Jost.

These infrared and visible-light photos of the eruption were taken by the Instituto Geofisico of the Escuela Politecnica Nacional from their monitoring station in Guadalupe, near Banos. The upper part of the volcano was essentially sterilized by the heat. Photo: IGEPN.

These infrared and visible-light photos of the eruption were taken by the Instituto Geofisico of the Escuela Politecnica Nacional from their monitoring station in Guadalupe, near Banos. The upper part of the volcano was essentially sterilized by the heat. Photo: IGEPN.

Geology and history often limit the possibility of strict endemism in the high parts of these mountains. Not only volcanic eruptions but also climate change can push incipient new species off these mountains. The layered, datable pollen record at the bottom of Andean lakes (such as Laguna Yaguarcocha in northern Ecuador) shows in detail how vegetative zones moved up and down these mountains in the recent past, by as much as 500-1000 meters. Species that require high elevations would be eliminated from the peaks of the highest mountains during warm times (one such warm period occurred just 2000 years ago). On the other hand, species from slightly lower elevations would be able to spread off a single peak and reach neighboring peaks during the cold periods, as vegetation bands lowered and patches of cold-loving montane forests coalesced at less-fragmented lower elevations. All of these processes, and more, affect the distribution of endemic species in today’s forests. We are trying to sort them out by looking closely at the evolutionary radiations of species endemic to our area. I’ll write more about this in later posts.

Tungurahua exploding, as seen from space

Tungurahua's July 14th eruption as seen from the GOES-15 weather satellite.

Tungurahua’s July 14th eruption as seen from the GOES-15 weather satellite. Click to enlarge.


As I mentioned in my last post, there was a gigantic eruption of our volcano, Tungurahua, on July 14. My brother Paul found a remote-sensing site which reported the eruption, with lots of imagery from space.
http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/goes/blog/archives/13426
The image above is from that website, and the center of the picture shows the huge ash cloud rising through the atmosphere shortly after the eruption. The white layer in the upper 2/3 of the picture is a layer of ordinary clouds, which ends abruptly in the arid high Andes in the lower 1/3 of the picture, casting a more-or-less linear black shadow across the whole scene.
Thanks Paul!

Lou Jost

Volcanic update

Yesterday (July 14, 2013) the volcano that I live on, Tungurahua, shook me out of bed at 6:45 am with perhaps its second-largest eruption of the last 50 years. It was so loud it could be heard in Guayaquil a hundred miles away. Unfortunately there were low clouds so I couldn’t see it! Here is what I missed (note that the first photo of the ash cloud is taken from Quito, 80 miles away, so far away that the volcano itself is not visible:

http://www.elcomercio.com/pais/Erupcion-volcan-Tungurahua-Ambato-ceniza-emergencia_5_955754417.html

By the way, the explosion was so strong that we didn’t get any ash–it all went high into the atmosphere and fell far away from here. Some nearby communities did get stomes rained on them. No deaths or injuries reported.

Lou Jost