Xpedition Day Three: Forest Camp to Shira 1 Camp

Blog originally posted on The GLOBE Scientists' Blog:

Today the team heads from 2,438 m to 3,505 m above sea level.  This portion of the journey will take the team from rain forest to heath zone.  A rain forest is characterized by high rainfall, with annual totals ranging from 1750-2000 mm (68-78 in).  A heath zone is above the forest line, where porous soils and lower rainfall result in sparser vegetation.

Leaving the rain forest heading to the heath zone
Leaving the rain forest heading to the heath zone
Collecting hydrology data
Collecting hydrology data

Today’s question asks the bloggers: What research question(s) are you trying to answer during The Xpedition?


Our main goal is to better understand and identify the six unique biomes on the mountain through using GLOBE protocols. We'll use measurements from this trek to compare with past treks, and examine the effects of climate change threatening Kilimanjaro's ecosystem.


As we cross the different biomes and encounter streams, glaciers (and maybe snow), I make a number of measurements including stream flow, temperature, conductivity, and collecting samples for isotope analysis.  With these measurements, I hope to be able to determine where the streams are getting their water (the relative amounts rainfall, snow/glacier melt, and ground water).  I am curious if the relative amounts change will change with biome and elevation change.  If the glaciers do disappear, I hope we will be able to determine how far the loss will be felt downstream (which ecosystems will feel the loss).


The main scientific questions that are being addressed on the expedition will be focused on the heat flow and the water distribution on the volcano.  The glaciers at the top are rapidly declining.  One of the questions is to figure out what the main factors are causing this to happen.  There are environmental factors that relate to climate change that seem to be at work here, but there are also internal factors from the volcano itself that may get adding heat to the system at the top and affecting the melting of the ice. 

Where is all of that water running off to?  The glacial melt has been feeding the steams that run down the mountainside and supply water to the surrounding areas, which is used by plants, animals, and humans.  With the water at the top gone, how will that affect the other systems and biomes that exist in this region?

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