Back from Africa
Julie Morin-Rivat is working on her doctoral thesis with the Wood Biology section and the University of Liège (Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech faculty).
© Julie Morin-Rivat © Anaïs-Pasiphaé Gorel © Julie Morin-Rivat © Julie Morin-Rivat
Her latest mission (17/2-17/4/2012): fieldwork in the area of Mbang (Eastern province, Cameroon).
The forests of the Mbang region are worked by the Société forestière et industrielle de la Doumé (SFID, Groupe Rougier). Accompanied by a Master’s student and a locally-formed team, Julie Morin-Rivat spent two months in these forests to collect data and material.
This mission falls within the scope of her doctoral thesis, which seeks to document the history of forests in relation to disturbances from human activity, using anthracology (study of wood charcoal) and dendrochronology (study of the growth rings of trees).
The work was conducted over three forest management units (FMUs) that were of particular interest because of their vegetation gradient. The team traced a 4.8-km. transect (forest path) for each FMU.
For anthracological studies, pits were dug along the transects. Sediments from the pits where then taken and sifted in order to collect pieces of wood charcoal for carbon dating. The coal could also be used to identify ancient flora. Their presence signals human activity, in the same way that palm nuts and pottery shards do.
To carry out dendrochronological tests, some one hundred trees from three species (Ayous, Tali and Sapelli) were listed (GPS position, etc.) then sampled. This way, when the trees are felled in the next two years, the yearly recurrence of the growth rings in these species, and thus their age, can be determined.
These analyses will contribute to a better grasp of how human activity disrupts existing forests. The hypothesis being tested is whether or not rational human activity can help maintain the diversity of areas, particularly those with heliophilic species (which need plenty of light), and thus preserve biodiversity. The results of the study will be used by the SFID in managing forest resources.