The suspension bridge project at Danum Valley aims to improve access to improve awareness to the primary rainforest. At present researchers have to take a long route to reach the area our bridge will lead to. There is also an ancient burial site in this area which is of great historical interest.
The Danum Valley Conservation Area spans across a primary and a secondary rainforest. A primary rainforest is one that has never been logged and a secondary rainforest is one that has grown back after being logged. The primary rainforest in Danum is 130 million years old which means there is a wealth of biodiversity and huge potential for research projects which could further our knowledge about processes that maintain tropical rainforests and inform us about the flora and fauna.
The Danum Valley conservation area is currently applying for UNESCO World Heritage Status and projects such as Raleigh’s suspension bridge will strengthen this application by improving Danum’s research capacity.
The increased accessibility to this part of the secondary rainforest will also help the rangers to monitor the area to reduce poaching. It also means that more camera trapping is possible and more can be learnt about the animals in this area.
During this phase we have been laying the foundations of the suspension bridge. There is a 12ft cubed hole which has to be filled with concrete to secure the bridge’s anchor. The site is only accessible by foot and the trail leading to it is very steep. This means we have been carrying building materials such as sand, gravel and cement from the road to the worksite. We used a water pump to get water from the river up to the cement mixer.
During heavy rain when work at the site was not possible we found other ways to work on the sustainable development goals by assisting a scientist named Julian collect samples from Birds Nest Ferns.
Not many people are fortunate enough to be approached by a PHD student and asked to assist in a lab. Therefore when exactly that happened the entire Alpha 3 were buzzing with excitement. The purpose of Julian’s investigation was to grasp a deeper understanding of the effects of nutrient flow in the soil. He taught us that; despite the vast biodiversity in tropical habitats like Danum Valley, the nutrient content is actually rather poor due to the persistent rainfall regularly washing nutrients away. Julian told us that soil is one of the fundamental foundations of the earth therefore we need to make a significant effort to understand and predict what will happen to our soil.
Julian’s method involved taking samples of different bird nest ferns with meshed netting from the towering canopy at Danum. The netting acted as a barrier which only allowed insects of a certain size access to the fern. At regular intervals Julian would retrieve samples from the ferns using his climbing rope and equipment. Once he had retrieved the ferns it was our turn to step in. Alpha 3 aided Julian in catching all the fleeing insects from the fern, putting them in a pot of ethanol to preserve them. Some of the most interesting discoveries were giant tropical centipedes, hairy spiders and eggs from a currently unidentified source. Samples of the soil were then taken to be later analysed in a lab for nutrient content, PH levels and other aspects of the soil. Julian will later look for correlations between species and characteristics of the soil and draw conclusions. All members of alpha 3 we extremely grateful for the opportunity and would like to thank Julian for allowing us to contribute to his research.