Fire damaged forest, Central Sulawesi, July '03, 2001 photos and text by Peter O'Byrne
The hillside in the
foreground had been ablaze a day or two before we arrived (it was still
in places), and the orchid-rich patch of riverine forest in the
foreground gully was severely damaged along the far edge. It was
clear that every year the same hillside got burned and the
forest margin got nibbled away, one strip at a time.
The above photo shows some narrow-bole montane
forest (pole-forest) on an open wind-swept plateau at about 1100
m altitude. According to the locals, 5 or 6 years ago when
humans first moved into the area, the forest came up to the road.
It is now about 100 metres away from the road. The grassy strip
gets burned every dry season and each year the trees along the
forest margin get flamed and either die or get severely damaged.
The dead trees seen here were burned in the previous dry season
(ie, 9-10 months prior to the photo) and will be completely consumed
next time the grass is burned (presumably shortly after the photo
was taken). You can see a few burned tree stumps sticking out from
the grass. This is all that remains of the trees that were
2 dry seasons ago. This forest is very rich in orchids, many of
which are still undescribed and known from nowhere else, including an
unidentified Ceratostylis species (see right side bar). The only
species that survives the initial flaming and is still growing on
the dead trees is the showy Dendrobium vogelsangii, but it won't
the intense heat of the next fire.
Dendrobium vogelsangii regenerating on a burned
Dendrobium vogelsangii in flower.