PE&RS September 2014 - page 818

September 2014
The American Climber Science Program (ACSP) is an
integrated research effort that combines remote sensing
analysis with extensive data-collection from a variety
of scientific partners (All 2014). Through a series of
PE&RS Highlight Articles, we are periodically sharing
ACSP work on diverse environments from tropical rain-
forests to high mountain glaciers in Central America,
the Himalayas, and the Andes. More information can
be found about the ACSP at
and we invite collaborators in all
This article describes the integration of remote sensing (RS)
data with diverse ground-based data collected during an ACSP
expedition across a remote and almost unexplored region of
southern Costa Rica. The objective of the Costa Rica Coast to
Coast Environmental Transect (C2C) was to cross from the
Pacific to the Atlantic coasts of Central America to collect
environmental data of direct interest and utility for local land
mangers and conservation organizations. We selected a route
that covered a broad range of rainforest life zones and areas
considered to be of key value for conservation of biodiversity
as well as the provision of critical ecosystem services such as
watershed protection and carbon sequestration (Figure 1).
Remote sensing was the tool that linked together diverse types
of data collected along the route.
This type of fieldwork can often entail significant risks –
each ACSP expedition has its own risk profile from charging
elephants to facing avalanches. The C2C expedition described
here traversed a mountainous region characterized by very
dense and untracked rainforest which necessitated careful
navigation at all times. Travel involved management of a suite
of hazards common to field research in tropical rainforests.
These hazards ranged from negotiating extremely steep and
slippery terrain to avoiding poisonous snakes, insects, and
plants, and to preventing infection and diseases.  For example,
a substantial number of our data collection points were on
slopes exceeding 70° and several sections of the transect
required crossing large, swift rivers that become impassable
during prolonged rainstorms. Lower elevation section of
the route (below 1300m) had habitat associated with high
densities of venomous snakes (Figure 2) including the Fer-de-
lance (
Bothrops asper
), a pit viper responsible for the greatest
percentage of snakebite incidents in Costa Rice (Sasa-Marin
et al. 2009). Disease concerns included risks of Dengue and
Leishmaniasis as well a myriad of nuisances such as ticks,
chiggers, and botflies. Sources of water at higher elevations
were scarce and/or difficult to access, and were often separated
Figure 2: Part of an over ten foot long snakeskin that
was encountered on our route.
Figure 1: Ground data collected across the country of Costa Rice from the Pacific
to the Atlantic Ocean. Landsat TM data provides the background for the image.
Tropical forests are among
the most important biomes on
Earth. They house extraordinary
levels of biodiversity, play a key
role in the terrestrial carbon and
hydrological cycles, and provide
a range of critical ecosystem
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