Jerusalem Protected Forest

Feeling the heat at Jerusalem Protected Forest

At the end of field work at Mira [link to previous post] I felt really motived with the progress I had made on the ‘Cold lizards project’ that I decided to keep on going, almost with no rest, with the next study site of my 2022 field work season. Thus, in mid August I travelled to Jerusalem Recreational Park and Protected Forest (Jerusalem RPPF, for short), which is located only 28 km north of Quito.

Map showing the location of Jerusalem Recreational Park and Protected Forest location. Image taken from Google Earth

This place has the largest remnants of the inter-Andean dry forest which is mainly composed of locust and cholan trees, moshquera endemic bushes, bromeliads, and cactuses.

In 2014, researchers from QCAZ museum (a well-known Ecuadorian herpetology museum; [link to the website?]), studied the thermal biology of the population of Stenocercus guentheri that inhabits Jerusalem RPPF. On their five one-day sampling trips they caught 39 specimens, which in my opinion is a reasonable number of individuals caught over a short period of time. However, when we were evaluating the population density of this species in the same area, we found out that lizards were not as abundant as suggested, and indeed, workers of the zone bore out that the number of individuals have decreased notably over the last years. We identified several causes that are threatening this species, for example: feral dogs and cats, destruction of the habitat due to human contamination, uncontrolled tourist activities, and administrative inconsistencies.

Nonetheless, over time, we fine-tuned our lizard searching skills and recorded interesting behaviour observations.

Sampling in this ecosystem was really exhausting during sunny days because we had no clouds nor trees for refuge. As crazy as it sounds, ground temperature on a clear day reached around 70°C, which is too extreme for a lizard to be active. Thus, on extremely hot days we couldn’t spot any lizards; we assumed they were sheltering from high temperatures (a good idea).

Although fatigued at the end of the trip, I felt satisfied that I was able to mark as complete another study site of the ‘Cold lizards project’.

Estefany Guerra Correa