Visiting the study sites at Los Gemelos
I had a very amazing field trip to the Scalesia forests at Los Gemelos. Scalesia species have been called “the Darwin’s finches of the plant world” because they show a similarly dramatic pattern of adaptive radiation. These giant daisy trees have an entire vegetation zone named after them. Scalesia is a genus of the family Asteraceae that is endemic to the Galapagos Islands. They consist of 15 native shrubs and tree species with six subspecies and each of the species has adapted to the different vegetation zones across the different islands.
A zone in the highlands of some islands is referred to as the Scalesia Zone which is a lush cloud forest and home to the largest of the Scalesia species (S. pedunculata dominant on Santa Cruz). From a distance the vegetation looks like a hummocky bog land but under the canopy, mosses, bromeliads, epiphytes and orchids thrive. The whole Scalesia zone is most threatened by human settlement. The zone is some of the most fertile land area on the Islands and perfect for agriculture. This has led to much of the original Scalesia forest being chopped down and replaced. Furthermore, the spread of introduced species such as blackberry has adverse effects on the habitat.
Here is a very interesting article about Scalesia forests which was published in GALAPAGOS REPORT 2009 -2010.