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MegaTransect

MegaTransect

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MegaTransect was the name for a project conducted in Africa in 1999 by J. Michael Fay
J. Michael Fay
J. Michael Fay is an American ecologist and conservationist notable for, among other things, the MegaTransect, in which he spent 455 days walking 3200 miles across Africa and the MegaFlyover in which he and pilot Peter Ragg spent months flying 70,000 miles in a small plane at low altitude, taking...

 to spend 455 days on the expedition hike of 2000 miles across the Congo Basin
Congo Basin
The Congo Basin is the sedimentary basin that is the drainage of the Congo River of west equatorial Africa. The basin begins in the highlands of the East African Rift system with input from the Chambeshi River, the Uele and Ubangi Rivers in the upper reaches and the Lualaba River draining wetlands...

 of Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million kmĀ² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

 to survey the ecological and environmental status of the region.

A transect is a term in ecology that denotes a survey of the natural vegetation through a particular area. The concept of a megatransect was conceived as a vegetation transect on a large scale that could be used to take an ecological census of the natural vegetation and ecosystems.

Shortly after the hike, Fay successfully lobbied alongside the President of Gabon
Gabon
Gabon , officially the Gabonese Republic is a state in west central Africa sharing borders with Equatorial Guinea to the northwest, Cameroon to the north, and with the Republic of the Congo curving around the east and south. The Gulf of Guinea, an arm of the Atlantic Ocean is to the west...

 to create 13 new national park
National park
A national park is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or owns. Although individual nations designate their own national parks differently A national park is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or...

s. In 2002, US Secretary of State Colin Powell
Colin Powell
Colin Luther Powell is an American statesman and a retired four-star general in the United States Army. He was the 65th United States Secretary of State, serving under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005. He was the first African American to serve in that position. During his military...

 and other Bush Administration members gave 53 million dollars to help preserve the Congo Basin.

Mike Fay later went on to carry out the MegaFlyover
MegaFlyover
The MegaFlyover project was a seven month aerial survey from June 2004 to January 2005 by explorer/ecologist J. Michael Fay and pilot Peter Ragg sponsored by the National Geographic Society and others...

 in 2004.

Madagascar
Madagascar
The Republic of Madagascar is an island country located in the Indian Ocean off the southeastern coast of Africa...

 megatransect


Also in 2004, an international team conducted a "Megatransect" of the island of Madagascar
Madagascar
The Republic of Madagascar is an island country located in the Indian Ocean off the southeastern coast of Africa...

. Dubbed "Hike Madagascar", the journey covered the entire island. Members met with rural farmers to help them improve their agricultural techniques and discuss their impact on the environment.

History of USA megatransects


One of the first megatransects in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, was conducted by Dr. Robert R. Humphrey when he rephotographed 535 miles of the natural vegetation along the United States and Mexico border at the 1890s permanent border monument locations, spaced about five miles apart, and published the work in "90 Years and 535 miles: Vegetation Changes along the Mexican Border" (1987, pub. Univ. of NM Press, 448 pages).

Craig C. Dremann, in 1997, conducted a megatransect surveying over 3,000 miles and at each mile-marker, noting the roadside vegetation, the perennial native grass
Grass
Grasses, or more technically graminoids, are monocotyledonous, usually herbaceous plants with narrow leaves growing from the base. They include the "true grasses", of the Poaceae family, as well as the sedges and the rushes . The true grasses include cereals, bamboo and the grasses of lawns ...

, and exotic grass
Invasive species
"Invasive species", or invasive exotics, is a nomenclature term and categorization phrase used for flora and fauna, and for specific restoration-preservation processes in native habitats, with several definitions....

 status, through the Great Basin
Great Basin
The Great Basin is the largest area of contiguous endorheic watersheds in North America and is noted for its arid conditions and Basin and Range topography that varies from the North American low point at Badwater Basin to the highest point of the contiguous United States, less than away at the...

 ecosystem. The route was from Reno
Reno, Nevada
Reno is the county seat of Washoe County, Nevada, United States. The city has a population of about 220,500 and is the most populous Nevada city outside of the Las Vegas metropolitan area...

, Nevada eastward to Hot Springs
Hot Springs, South Dakota
Hot Springs is a city in Fall River County, South Dakota, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 3,711. It is the county seat of Fall River County...

, South Dakota, and from South Dakota, through Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada and returning westward to Bishop
Bishop, California
Bishop is a city in Inyo County, California, United States. Though Bishop is the only city and the largest populated place in Inyo County, the county seat is Independence. Bishop is located near the northern end of the Owens Valley, at an elevation of 4147 feet . The population was 3,879 at the...

, California, and then north to Reno.

In 2005, Dremann conducted another vegetation megatransect, this time of the California portion of the Mojave desert
Mojave Desert
The Mojave Desert occupies a significant portion of southeastern California and smaller parts of central California, southern Nevada, southwestern Utah and northwestern Arizona, in the United States...

, mapping over 1,000 miles on a mile-by-mile basis, for a fast-spreading exotic mustard
Mustard plant
Mustards are several plant species in the genera Brassica and Sinapis whose small mustard seeds are used as a spice and, by grinding and mixing them with water, vinegar or other liquids, are turned into the condiment known as mustard or prepared mustard...

 species, Brassica
Brassica
Brassica is a genus of plants in the mustard family . The members of the genus may be collectively known either as cabbages, or as mustards...

 tournefortii
Brassica tournefortii
The mustard species Brassica tournefortii is known by the common names Asian mustard, African mustard, and Sahara mustard, and is well-known as an invasive species, especially in California....

, noting the locations and density of the Mojave desert Mustard infestation in California.

Dremann suggests that a method of remotely conducting a large-scale vegetation megatransect, is with photographs. Photographs that have been taken at ground-level at intervals from known locations, can be stitched together, to create large-scale to Continent-scale megatransect pictures of the ecosystems.

In 2007-2008 J. Michael Fay and Lindsey Holm completed a 1300 mile Redwood Transect of 333 days. This was a transect that spanned from the southernmost to the northernmost redwood tree in California and Oregon. They walked extensively on private timberland and public land recording data on historical exploitation, current forest stand characteristics, silviculture and many other aspects of the redwood ecosystem. The results will be published in National Geographic in 2009.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Appalachian Trail Conservancy
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of the Appalachian Trail, which runs from Maine to Georgia...

 and the National Park Service
National Park Service
The National Park Service is the U.S. federal agency that manages all national parks, many national monuments, and other conservation and historical properties with various title designations...

 are adapting the idea of a megatransect for the Appalachian Trail
Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, generally known as the Appalachian Trail or simply the AT, is a marked hiking trail in the eastern United States extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. It is approximately long...

 (A.T.) Like other megatransects, the A.T. MEGA-Transect aims to monitor the natural resources along the trail, understand the status and trends of these resources, and inform and engage the public and stakeholders. The 2,178 mile long trail crosses 14 states, from Georgia to Maine, and is visited by one to two million people, and completed by about 400 people each year. Volunteer citizen scientists are beginning to implement monitoring protocols to track natural resources such as wildlife presence, water quality, forest health, invasive plants, endangered species, mountain birds, phenology, and air quality. Professional scientists are also using the transect for independent research. Because the A.T. is oriented along the predicted migratory direction of species responding to climate change, it is a particularly important megatransect to establish and maintain.

MegaTransect future


For a rapidly-changing planet, megatransects establish baseline data
Data
The term data refers to qualitative or quantitative attributes of a variable or set of variables. Data are typically the results of measurements and can be the basis of graphs, images, or observations of a set of variables. Data are often viewed as the lowest level of abstraction from which...

 from which to draw future trends, and they can focus attention on particular ecosystems which are disappearing faster than others.

Establishing standard megatransects on specific region
Region
Region is most commonly found as a term used in terrestrial and astrophysics sciences also an area, notably among the different sub-disciplines of geography, studied by regional geographers. Regions consist of subregions that contain clusters of like areas that are distinctive by their uniformity...

s or through various ecosystems of each continent, and periodic re–measurement of the ecological conditions along routes, every five to ten years, would provide very valuable measured data on environmental trends.

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