Emma recently returned home to South Africa to complete a field trip in the Phalaborwa region of the Kruger National Park. She collected leaf and wood trait data which will be analysed in conjunction with growth data collected by Tony Swemmer of the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON). Emma is interested in growth-trait relations, and the data will contribute to the second chapter of her PhD.
Emma was helped by some fantastic SAEON field assistants, who provided vital tree identification skills and willing smiles.
Besides the usual challenges of collecting leaf physiology data in the field, the Kruger Park offers the unique chance of bumping into an elephant, a rhino, or even lion, all while trying to measure maximum photosynthetic rate using the fairly unwieldy LI-6400. Thankfully nothing dangerous bothered them while working, but they did see some interesting animals driving to and from the sites.
The vegetation in the study sites ranged from dense mopane woodland to open acacia savanna. Due to a drought this rainy season the grassy layer has taken a beating, but thankfully trees were still photosynthesising.
All in all it was a successful trip and should provide some very interesting data from an arid savanna.