Yesterday, we took (part of) our team to the ‘Kalmthoutse Heide’, one of Flanders’ most impressive heathland areas.
The goal? Prepare for the upcoming fieldwork season in northern Scandinavia, where soon a team of 6 from our lab will go to resurvey our long-term plant community plots up there (and do a lot of other awesome stuff).
Such a preparatory day gives us the perfect opportunity to get familiar with the different monitoring techniques, the nature of the work and the time it will take. This way, we save a good day of trial-and-error when we actually arrive in Scandinavia, next week.
Additionally, we get a first glimpse of many of the plant species we will encounter in northern Scandinavia. It is actually rather shocking how much overlap there is in species between our Flemish heathlands and at least the lowlands of the northern Scandes. Ruderal lowland species like Trifolium (clover), Taraxacum (dandelion), Cirsium (thistle) and Poa (grasses), but also many of the more typical species of the area, such as Deschampsia flexuosa and several of the dominant tree species: Betula pubescens (birch), Pinus sylvestris (pine) and Sorbus (mountain-ash).
This gives the students – many of whom have so far very little experience with plant identification – a good plant species base when arriving in Abisko.
And, of course, it allows us to work together as a team for the first time, and me to get to know the new students a bit!