25-11-2004 First impressions of Brazil

We have been in Brazil now for over a week. Our group is converting into a real dream team efficiently talking all the measurements we noted down in the field protocol alternated by huge laugh salvos.
Tuesday last week Antonio came to pick us on the Brazilian border Chuí (or Chuy as the Uruguayans call it). We did not find any difficulties crossing the boarder with all our stuff. Just after the boarder we had our first safari experience along the road: capybara, jacaré-de-papo amarilo (Cayman sp.), white geese, pink spooners (colheiro´s), rapter birds etc. all in the Taim ecological station (Taim hydrological system). It was beautiful. In contrast to David and John – that did the same trip some days before - we were happily able to avoid hitting any of them. In Porto Alegre, some 530 km from the boarder, David was waiting for us. Was good to see each other ‘life’ after all the email exchange. We also met Tiago, a limnology student that was going to help us during the rest of the field campaign in this part of our gradient.

The next day we visited large part of the lakes that are included in the sampling. Finally, finally on Thursday the day came that we would start sampling our first lake. In the middle of the dunes near Bacopari just south of Porto Alegre. Unfortunately we got kind of stuck in quicksand. Quickly the car got so deep in the sand that there was no way to get it out. We had to get a tractor to get going again. So for a couple of hours we were forced to enjoy the spectacular environment. At some moments it looked liked we were in the sahara, with sand blowing everywhere, but we knew better: water was close by (hence the delay :-) ).
minnow traps and fish nets
In the afternoon we could finally start were we came for. Circumstances were not ideal. Wind and rain, but diehards as we are we started anyway. The lake was deeper as expected (7 m) but completely mixed. We hardly found any submerged plants, did not measure any significant respiration nor primary production, chlorophyll concentration seams to be very low and the secchi depth was around 70 cm’s. The lakes are influenced a lot by wind induced resuspension.

At the end of the day we left the multi mesh net that were specially imported from Denmark. The man that made us the nets was such high spirits that his nets would make such a long trip that he decided to visit Uruguay later this year. We caught about 5 different species, but the nets got damaged very easily.

Now, after sampling 4 complete lakes – in the last one we even had turtles ‘eating’ our nets and also the fish caught- the nets are one big gatenkaas as we say in Dutch (more hole than anything else). The lakes we have seen so far are pretty a like. The sampling goes faster and more efficient every time. There are some things to be improved however. Especially the filtration with the hand pump is taking a lot of time and causing a lot of blisters, the “laboratory tent” that we set up every time does not get near the 2,10 the sales man told us forcing us to work bowed all the time. Due to inventiveness of Nestor we do now count with a corer that can both take our top sediment samples and deeper cores.

We are now at lake Suzana near Cidreira where we will also take samples for stable isotope analysis. The weather changed again and it is raining. Lucky as we are – or shall we call it good planning? – we were offered a “tapera” a rural shack were we installed our lab and where we can prepare caipirinha (cachaça + lime + suger from cain + crushed ice) and meat for the omnivores among us.

So, so far all well at this part of the world. Exploring new environments every day. Meeting beautiful people, learning knew habits and enjoying the varying landscapes. Até mais!

More pictures: (Cick to enlarge)
In the middle of nowhere
Eichhornia azurea
Native palm
Natural vegetation alongside the lake
Nestor and Sarian
Rainbow above lake number 1
Ruberto, David and Nestor
Sampling the local food David Antonio Nestor Tiago and Gissell
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