Last weekÂs Coyote wildfire was a devastating blow to San Diego State UniversityÂs Sky Oaks Research Station, with losses of research equipment and facilities running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars (Los Angeles Times, Saturday, July 19, 2003).
The fire also destroyed tens of thousands of dollars of equipment operated by the research team of John Gamon, a plant ecologist affiliated with the Center for Environmental Analysis (CEA-CREST) at California State University, Los Angeles. The heat of the fire destroyed two aluminum Âtram systemsÂ used for automated sampling of ecosystem optical properties, a novel way of estimating the photosynthesis and respiration rates of the chaparral ecosystem.
The Sky Oaks installation was part of a larger research and student-training project developing automated and robotic sampling methods for the study of ecosystem gas exchange, the basic photosynthetic and respiratory processes that constitute the ÂbreathingÂ of the planet. Ironically, the Sky Oaks work focused on disturbance effects of these basic ecosystem processes.
ÂThe fire offers a unique opportunity to study disturbance and post-fire recovery firsthand; unfortunately, our field sampling equipment and facilities, along with those of our SDSU colleagues, were destroyed, leaving us empty-handed. I donÂt know how we are going to recover from this,Â lamented Gamon. ÂWeÂre just beginning to assess the impacts.Â
To contact Dr. Gamon at Cal State L.A., call (323) 343-2066.
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