In December 2013, Julio embarked for fieldwork to the Yucatan Peninsula located in the South East of Mexico, washed by the Caribbean Sea and the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The study area was a mangrove forest located within the boundaries of the Natural Reserves El Palmar and Ría Celestun.
Mangroves are inter-tidal tree communities which support a rich biodiversity including some emblematic species such as the Caribbean flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) and the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus). In addition, mangrove forests play a key role in the carbon cycle in the coastal zone as they absorb carbon from the atmosphere, store it and export it to adjacent ecosystems. Mangrove´s capacity to absorb carbon is closely related to photosynthesis, largely dependent on leaf photosynthetic pigments.
Consequently, the purpose of the campaign was to obtain spectral and pigment information from mangrove canopy to explore the possibility of using Landsat-8 data to predict leaves chemical composition. To acquire leaves spectral measurements Julio borrowed the Spectral Devices (ASD) FieldSpec Pro spectroradiometer from the Field Spectroscopy Facility of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). Previous to his departure, Julio attended a training session in Field Spectroscopy in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Edinburgh. Leaf chlorophyll was estimated using a portable chlorophyll meter SPAD 502.
The base for the field campaign was the Sisal Academic Unit from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Once in the field, 12 sampling units (SU) of about ~30x30m were identified covering the heterogeneity of the mangrove landscape in the region. Within each SU 2-3 tall trees were selected for sampling. Leaves from top and from below the top of canopy were collected using a pole with a cutter attached to the upper end. Leaves were then brought to dry ground to perform the measurements.
Julio states, ‘Fieldwork was an exciting, enriching and sometimes painful experience. Working in the mangrove is not a trivial task; the muddy ground, the mangrove aerial roots, the mosquitoes and the hot temperatures might complicate things from time to time. Nevertheless, the spectacular landscape, the opportunity to witness the diversity of species, the friendship one makes in the field and the contribution to the understanding of mangrove ecosystem make all the effort worth it. Fieldwork was carried in collaboration with the Sisal Academic Unit from the UNAM and with the support of guides from the Natural Reserves. ‘
Back in the University of Southampton Julio has been processing the data gathered in the field and preparing a manuscript for submission to an international refereed journal.