Toyota Enviro Outreach 2010
The Toyota Enviro Outreach that started on 21 September from Klipbokkop in the Boland in support of the International Barcode of Life (iBOL) project was concluded last week. South Africa forms part of this project led by the Canadians, which spans 26 countries and brings together hundreds of leading scientists in the task of collecting specimens, obtaining their DNA barcode records and building an informatics platform to store and share the information for use in species identification and discovery.
Normally in a trip like this the biggest challenge is to obtain collecting permits. It is forbidden in SA to collect any plant and animal specimen without the correct authorization. Special thanks to the authorities at northern Cape Nature Conservation, Cape Nature and SANPARKS that assist us with the permits.
The Toyota Enviro Outreach scientific team consisted of specialists in the field of insects, plants, birds, mollusk and fish identification and was led by the University of Johannesburg with the support of the University of Guelph in Canada. The team traveled more than 3 200 km to collect plant and animal specimens for DNA barcoding in the three-biodiversity hotspots in South Africa. A massive total of more than 3 500 species representing approximately 5 000 individuals were collected. Once the barcode for these samples is produced they will be uploaded onto the Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD), an online informatics platform where it will become part of a growing reference library of DNA barcodes for South African plants and animals that will be freely available for use by the broader scientific and amateur naturalist communities.
Approximately two thirds of total number of samples collected came from the insect group. Overall 17 of the possible 29 southern African insect orders were collected across the three-biodiversity hotspots. Some special mention has to be made of the dung beetle species, Drepanopodus costatus that was found at Noup, more than 100 km south of its present known distribution. All the specimens had black instead of brick red wings. Now the team will need to collect further north to compare its DNA with the red winged variety. On the way back from Noup, Christian set traps out on the Knersvlakte for an undescribed species of dung beetle. Hold thumbs please!! At Colchester they collected the enigmatic Circellium bacchus. Although specimens were commonly seen ambling between our tents, it enjoys protected status in the eastern and western Cape provinces.
The birding team collected a total of 73 samples from 36 different species of which 15 species are endemics to the region. The endemics included fynbos specials like the Cape Grassbird, Cape Sugarbird and Orange-breasted Sunbird. The Tractrac Chat, only found in a narrow area next to the west coast of southern Africa, was a special catch for the project.
The fish team has collected many land and marine mollusk and fish species, even jellyfish and blue bottles. The catch of the day was however the sparsely distributed Cape galaxias. It is a monotypical species - the only species in its genus from this (one-and-only) family of its kind in Africa and Europe.
The plant team collected close to 1 000 species ranging from Yellowwood trees in the forest at Diepwalle to small vygies at Noup on the Atlantic shore. A very special vegetation, surviving in the harsh conditions of salty soils and ever blowing winds. The Knersvlakte was something special, which Annelise le Roux from Cape Nature revealed to us. A vygie called Argyroderma delaetii, commonly known as bababoudjies, are about the size of half a matchbox; it can be anything between 25–50 years old and is endemic to the Knersvlakte. Almost right next to it, Annelise found the hitchhiker. Another vygie called Dactylopsis digitata or Duim-en-wysvinger. It looks exactly like someone hitching a ride and is also endemic to the area as is 155 other species. Next we visited Koggelberg Nature Reserve where Amida Johns, the author of “Stellenbosch to Hermanus, South African Wild Flower Guide” gave us an exciting introduction to the local flora. We collected close to 100 species that day including representatives of the families Peneaceae and Grubbiaceae which are endemic to the Cape Province. Elandsberg Reserve was the next stop of our journey. There are only a few places in the world where you can still see this very sensitive type of vegetation (Swartland Shale renosterveld) which is critically endangered. Our final stop was at Addo with its mosaic vegetation of bushland and thickets, dune forest and coastal-belt forest.
“For me the most wonderful experience was how people from different backgrounds and experiences can work as a group to achieve a common goal. The spirit and enthusiasm was fantastic. Special thanks must go to Gerhard and Elmarie Groenewald and their team from Klipbokkop Nature Reserve near Worchester; without the logistic support and constant encouragement we would never have achieved our goals,” says Prof. Michelle van der Bank.
The Toyota Enviro Outreach was sponsored by Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM) by providing the vehicles and financial support and supported by Cape Nature, Sanparks, the University of Johannesburg and the University of Guelph in Canada.
Read more about the Enviro Outreach on www.toyotaoutreach.com. More information on the iBOL project and the BOLD database is available on http://ibol.org.
The plant Team
Richard got a fish... finally
Erin in the finbosh
Jephris and Bruce pressing plant specimens
Michelle and Olivier collecting samples in the Mountains around Worcester