Moving beyond sole conservation intentions at our rainforest at Aiko towards ecotourism it quickly became obvious that a detailed map of the terrain needs to be created to answer a bunch of important questions – like “where exactly is Aiko?”, “what are good trails through the forest?” and “where are points of interest?”.
Our forest engineer Manuel searched at his former university – the University of Applied Sciences Weihenstephan – for the right man and would function as a mentor for the project. He found Matthias Maier, who wanted to do an abroad internship at that time for his final degree, so the GPS field mapping project of our rainforest was just the right thing. The guys are well tough and really had to be because they had to chart this for around 3 months:
Hired the right guy for the job
Apart from the coordinates of the trails we also needed to document rivers, natures pools, other points of interest and borders to our neighbors. When mapping a rainforest one has to often leave the maintained trails and basically walk about the whole terrain. With Aiko consisting of very different landscapes, Matthias and Manuel had to struggle through quite some things:
Parts of Aiko are primary forest, where mapping is more or less easy because it consists of big tress with not too much other stuff growing on the ground. Some other forests are of secondary nature where a new forests grow – in vegetation like this you have a lot of thick “jungle” on the ground and definitely need a good sharp machete to be able to move forward.
Thick & pathless rainforest
They also had to be really careful when working in the field and respect a couple of ground rules like always wearing boots that cover the ankle to prevent snake bites or being really aware of what to touch and what not. Have a look our blog post on How to behave in Rainforest for more information.
Poisenous coral snake & spikes on a tree
GPS stands for “Global Positioning System” – it consists of 3 separate systems: 1. In outer space 24 satellites circle the earth at an altitude of 24000 km in exact orbits. Of those you need 3 to determine the position – with measurement errors like the barrier of the canopy and ionospheric effect a minimum of 4 is required. 2. There are several ground stations distributed of the globe for monitoring purposes 3. Finally there’s the GPS devices. For our project we used the “Megallan MobileMapper 6” for the gathering of the GPS data.
The flow of work during the project looked like this: They would get up at sunrise at 6 o’ clock and begin immediately because at that time the interferences of the ionospheric effect are least. First they would record the outer border of Aiko to basically define what inside this border has to be mapped.
The first overview map
During the recording of coordinates it is important to have the GPS set to automatically determine the position every 10 meters. Every time an obstacle was “hit” in forest – like an abyss or deep stream, they had to create supporting points before and after the obstacle and connect them later on the computer. If the satellite reception was to low, and that happened a lot under the forest canopy, they had to locate and visit the next clearing and start over.
Bit by bit the map the developed and finally a detailed map with all frontiers, trails, streams, waterfall and point of interest is now available. Have a look below:
The finished map – ready to use
Lookout Point over the Vally
This map is also available over at Google Maps. When you come for hiking to Aiko we recommend to stay on our well maintained trails. Ask your guide for directions on those trails!
If you want to read more on this project, the German nature magazine Geo did an interesting interview with Matthias on the project.