FIELD TRIP TO SOUTHERN SKELETON COAST NATIONAL PARK (SCNP) – 21-27 SEPTEMBER 2018
A group of eight SCIONA collaborators undertook a field trip to the southern part of the SCNP to investigate insect fauna, detritus (plant litter), soil microorganisms, reptile population and soil characteristics of the area between Springbokwasser and Terrace Bay. Elise Nghalipo collected measurements and soil samples for her PhD project. The soil samples will be used to measure soil carbon pools and the stability of these pools associated with plant hummocks. Additionally, the soil samples will be used to determine taxonomic and functional diversity of soil microbial communities associated with plant hummocks, in order to understand how ecological functions may be altered under climate change future projections in hyper-arid systems. Nekulilo Uunona collected insects with pitfall and pan traps, for her Master project on the insect diversity, richness, composition and abundance of the Skeleton Coast National Park. Vimbai Marufu collected measurements and samples of plant litter that accumulates on and inside hummock dunes of three plant species for her Honours studies. Marina Coetzee investigated relationships between the geology, landforms and soils. It was confirmed that gypsisols are widespread along the entire coastline from the Ugab River to Terrace Bay and from just beyond beaches to approximately 30 km inland. At that distance, calcium carbonate becomes more dominant than calcium sulphate, thus calcisols, and petrocalcic horizons (calcretes) take over from petrogypsic horizons (gypcretes). She found a variety of other soil types: Solonchaks in salt pans; Arenosols of the sand dunes; Fluvisols, unconsolidated Arenosols and Regosols along river courses; Leptosols where only a thin layer of soil covers bedrock; pockets of Regosols wherever colluvial material accumulates at the foot of mountain or hill slopes. Hummock dunes were found to be mainly composed of fine sand (Arenosols) or silt, thus Regosols (where there is no clear horizon development) or Cambisols (where there is incipient horizon development). Francois Theart carried out a limited-area reptile survey and recorded six gecko, five lizard and four snake species. The cold and very windy weather had an adverse effect on the search for reptiles and lacewings (Neuroptera). The team collected additional data on occurrence of mammals (recorded with the EpiCollect app), birds, insects, arachnids and plants.