This morning was spent huffing and puffing as we flipped rocks at 3500m in the high shrublands, cloud forest and puna (high grassland). Despite the light-headedness, this is truly a spectacular meeting of three different habitats. The stunted trees of the cloud forests drip with moss while the puna is dominated by grasses and Ericaceae. Among the puna's grass and rock there are orchids, begonias and other "tropical" species mixed with the alpine species like lupine. In total we found 4 species of frog and 1 species of lizard (more on them at a later time). Standing water in the puna is scarce so the amphibians that survive there do so without having an aquatic, tadpole, phase (like the Gastrotheca mentioned in an earlier post). During the day the frogs and lizards here can be found under rocks to conserve moisture. The transition into cloud forest is rapid, often as we turn the corner into a creek bed the forest begins. Here the plants are more diverse, although still adapted to the cold, high environment. One of these creeks is even home to a diatom named after Wayqecha.
On our way out we collected more water for eDNA filtering as well, in hopes of finding traces of some of the high elevation species lost to Bd.