Monthly Archives: October 2011

Mendoza 4: Back to Bariloche, but first some birds

We’re about to leave on a new adventure so here’s a quick post to finish the story line from last month’s trip to Mendoza.  We left Mendoza and drove 14 h south, pretty much non-stop.  This was not enough to reach Bariloche; we ended up near Neuquen and spent the night.  The following day we took a slight detour to travel via Laguna Blanca National Park.  This park is known for its waterfowl (see the pics).  The Lonely Planet reports that the lake has no fish; this is actually probably why the ducks and flamingos would like this lake, as there would be many plankton for them to eat.  So, we were a bit surprised to see various fishermen along the shores, as well as, well, FISH swimming in the shallow waters.  This discrepancy was later explained by our friends Esteban and Beatriz, who report that fish were introduced some years ago into a small bay that was in private hands.  The owner’s claim was that the fish would stay in the bay.  Silly.  Of course, they went everywhere in the lake and are at great abundance.  Good for fishermen but not for flamingos and ducks, who would certainly prefer a lake full of big copepods and Daphnia.    Anyway, enjoy the pictures, which include a gratuitous shot of a grasshopper (that refused to hop; I think it didn’t want to be suspended in the 40 mph wind), just for Arianne.

OK, off to Salta today!

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In Cuatro Ciénegas, Mexico, the water is everything

Posted by Jess:  Jorge and I are back from another adventure in Cuatro Ciénegas! Unfortunately, all was not well during this trip… Over the summer, we watched as the Churince System, one of the largest springs in the valley, steadily decreased in size. June rains rejuvenated the waters and gave us hope that the spring-fed lakes might return to their former grandeur. When we arrived in early October, what we saw was dismal: the lake had become several disconnected ponds, surrounded by the footprints of turtles knowing the waters were too low for them. This system of ponds once fed an even larger lake, “Laguna Grande”, which now resembles more the famous Gypsum Dunes than an aquatic habitat. What can you do? Sign the petition to tell José Luis Luege, Director General of Mexico’s National Water Commission, and Felipe Calderón, President of Mexico, to uphold their promise to rescue and protect the waters of Cuatro Ciénegas.

Churince System
From left to right, this time series beginning in 2010 and ending with October 2011 depicts the loss of surface water in the Churince System. Photos by Ana Gutierrez.

Mendoza 3: Finally, the wine.

After Aconcagua, we made it back to Mendoza where we spent two nights in a nice B&B.  Of course, Mendoza is famous for its wine and especially its Malbec terroir.  So, we headed out to a little town nearby called Maipu where we rented some bikes.  The weather was fantastic and we had a great day riding to various bodegas and sampling el vino.  It was 90% charming – the 10% uncharming part was riding the bikes on some sections of highway way too close to passing trucks.  At the last winery we visited, our guide was a young woman who had lived in Mesa (AZ) for several years.  El mundo chico, as they say.  Full set of Mendoza pics HERE.  (Bonus pics from earlier trip to El Bolson here.)

Rigorous scientific sampling of Mendoza productivity.

Bariloche at its best!

Some consider Bariloche to be one of the most beautiful places on Earth.  Here’s a picture to support that claim.  The wind was blowing all the Puyehue ash in a different direction and so the day was PERFECT.  The shot is taken from the top of Cerro Llao Llao, looking southwest.  This nice hike is about a 20 min drive from our house.


Mendoza 2: Onwards to Aconcagua

The next leg of our journey after the araucarias took us back to Rta 40, up some spectacular and lonely highway (first several pictures in the set that follows), and we arrived after dark to a non-descript town called Malarague where we spent the night.  The next day was a LONG drive up the 40 to Mendoza, where we joined the route that connects Mendoza to Santiago, Chile.  This highway was choked with trucks as this is the main Atlantic/Pacific link between between the Panama Canal and Tierra del Fuego.  In fact we were delayed about 45 min while they hauled a crashed truck out of the way.   They need a train here!  Unfortunately, Argentina let most of its train system deteriorate over several decades during the middle of the last century.  In one of the last pictures you can see a bridge from the abandoned train line that once linked Mendoza to Santiago.   Sad.  But good news on the way:  a model at the airport depicted the cross-Andes rail tunnel that appears to be in the works.  Hooray!

We reached  Aconcagua (tallest mountain outside of Asia) late in the afternoon and it was spectacular and worth the long driving.  After enjoying the mountain (we had the viewing area almost to ourselves), we headed back to Mendoza, stopping quickly at the very touristic Punte del Inca, a strange yellow arch over a river formed by deposits from a hot spring, possibly shaped into the bridge with the help of winter-time ice.  Anyway, it is also of interest because Charles Darwin visited here and made a sketch of the Puente in 1835.  Anyway, right now it is mostly a place to sell trinkets, rocks, and llama-adorned hats (made in China?) to tourists.  We scampered on, heading to Mendoza and the promise of abundant Malbec.  Full pics here.

Mendoza journey, part 1: March of the araucaria

So, here’s more of a report of our trip to Mendoza.  Of course, given the status of the Bariloche airport, we had to drive.  On the way up, we chose to drive the legendary Routa 40, the “Quarenta”, which winds its way through the precordillera of the Andes from Bolivia to Tierra de Fuego.  Long and lonely but spectacular.  For our first night we diverged off the 40 to the town of Villa Pehuenia, a small town in an area of indigenous Mapuche villages.  “Pehuenia” is another word for “araucaria”.  Araucaria (aka “monkey puzzle tree”; Araucaria araucana in Argentina) are a SPECTACULAR tree, a prehistoric “living fossil” little changed since the Mesozoic.  We kept expecting a dinosaur to come around the corner.  In fact, National Geographic and Discovery Channel have filmed documentaries about dinosaurs in this area (of course, they needed special effects for the dinosaurs!).  We stayed at a lovely “hosteria” on Lake Alumine.  It rained that entire night and covered the araucaria in the surrounding mountains with snow and brought a perfect rainbow (“arco iris” en espanol) to the lake.

It was beautiful but such was not how you’d describe the language Monica used about the snow-covered, mud-rutted road we had to cross the next day to get back to the 40 (check the pics at the link).  We’ll pick up the story there in the next post.   Here is the full set of pics from this stage of the trip.  LINK

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Conference update

Posted by Jess:  I spent a few days at the 27th New Phytologist Symposium, Stoichiometric flexibility in terrestrial ecosystems under global change. There were many interesting talks that covered a broad spectrum of cases when elemental cycles were or were not linked. Some of the notable talks included those by Drs. Sasha Reed, who encouraged us to think about the stoichiometry of fluxes instead of pools, Gaius Shaver, who demonstrated the importance of conducting years-long experiments to understand ecosystem function, and Esteban Jobbágy, who presented a stoichiometric analysis of conventional agricultural systems. It was a great meeting and I look forward to being a part of the challenging research that is understanding stoichiometric flexibility!