Freddie, a fellow researcher has chosen to work on dung beetles around the reserve and has set 20+ traps in order to get an idea of what kinds of beetles are roaming around. We cruised along to set up some of them alongside the track out of sight of tourists. The trap is simply a bottle, cut in half, and placed so that the lip is level with the ground. Any ground-dwelling animal simply falls in to a hole filled with water and soap to be collected the next day. This survey method allows one to determine what insects are present/absent in the area. Freddie is setting up these traps along transects in different types of forests that Cloudbridge has around the reserve including planted forest, regenerating forest, and old growth forest. When the survey is done she will be able to compare what is present/absent between these sites.
Cloudbridge categorises her forests by region of common history, as noted above. There is a broader, global perspective of categorising the natural environments based on the amount of rainfall and temperature. The world can be divided into 16 vegetation types with this method, each a kind of ‘biome.’ The biome of Cloudbridge is a tropical moist broadleaf forest (so although planet earth has an episode on “jungles,” there’s actually no agreed definition for such an environment). This forest type tends to be along the equator and usually has low nutrients, high sunlight, and high water inputs, forcing evolution to create specialists through competition. A couple of weeks back I mentioned the concept of co-limitation in ecology. This is one of the reasons for the high level of species richness in the tropics. Because there are a bunch of species, some may only exist on one mountain-side, one beach front, or one river system. Taken further, this entails that tropical forests in one country have totally different combinations of plants and animals from another. The amazon birds are not the same as those in Borneo; the monkeys in Costa Rica are not the same as those in India; the plants in Singapore are not the same as those in the Congo.
Automobiles, just like ecosystems, are complex systems, containing many parts, processes, and functions. The differences between a toyota rolla and a nissan bluebird are many, and in most cases in the rolla’s favour. The seats, the steering wheel, the doors, the wing-mirrors, the pedals, the headlights, the engine size are all designed in a different manner. But there are some fundamental similarities like having four doors, having a roof or having a piston engine. Are these differences and similarities consistent with all automobiles, though? What about if you chuck an RX-7 in the mix, or a motorcycle, or a tractor?
Not only is it likely that the species in Costa Rica will be dissimilar to those in NZ, NZ is not a tropical moist broadleaved forest. So, Oli and I decided to create a question that transcends these limitations of differences and ask one that seeks to find a common characteristic of forest systems. As our results will only be relevant for the particular studied forest system, we hope to make the link between these systems by conducting the project in both Costa Rican and NZ forests, determining whether this process is likely to be a common characteristic.
We can’t just use Costa Rica to make these inferences as it is very difficult to make generalisations or predictions with one sample size. For example, earth is one sample known to have life but we cannot say for certain that all planets support life or that life exists outside of earth. However, if we were to find life on another planet in our solar system, the chances of life existing on other planets or in other systems in the universe, greatly increases.