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Magellan Strait research on forest ecology and indigenous land use

April 13, 2018

LHUM_5112In February, I was lucky enough to take part in an expedition to the extremely remote regions of western Magellan Strait. The project, organized by the Río Seco Museum of Natural History in Punta Arenas, Chile, and under the leadership of Prof. Lars Östlund from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, was a reconnaissance study: doing a first pass study to understand the forest structure and ecology, and also documenting bark scars in the trees that are evidence of former resource use by the indigenous Kawéskar people.

We were a crew of nine researchers (hailing from five different countries), plus the boat’s crew of four, with a zodiac to get to shore. I was primarily there as the expedition photographer – but my geology background was helpful at times, and I was definitely put to work at assisting with the forest documentation (all of the different measurements take a long time to complete – I became the “volume of dead wood on the ground” specialist).

Here are some photos of the forest work we were doing. I’ll put up separate posts of some of the other photos from the trip – from penguins to humpback whales to glaciers!

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Prof. Lars Östlund steps ashore at one of our primary research sites, Bachelor River.

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The forest was beautiful and lush – but super hard to walk through!

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Archeologist Robert Carracedo points out a shell midden – one of many! – that shows that in the past, Kawéskar people occupied and used the shorelines extensively.

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Torbjörn Josefsson points out the mark indicating axe use – proving that this bark scar was definitely caused by human activity, and not by natural forest processes such as another tree falling against it.

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Gabriel Zegers writes down the measurements as Lars examines a bark scar.

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Macarena Fernandez records data as Samuel Roturier extracts a core to examine tree rings, and Benjamín Cáceres (background) takes measurements.

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It was cold and misty (or rainy) throughout the whole expedition, even though this was the peak of summer – but what spectacular landscapes, in a region that sees very human visitors.

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