Mid­dies join S­wiss pro­fes­sor on field-vi­sit

Graaff-Reinet Advertiser - - Voorblad -

Jus­tin du Toit

MID­DEL­BURG — Stu­dents from Mid­del­burg High S­chool joi­ned Klaus Kuhn and ot­her re­se­ar­chers from S­wit­zer­land e­ar­lier this y­e­ar for a field-vi­sit to their re­se­arch si­te ne­ar Com­pass­berg to in­ves­ti­ga­te cut­ting-ed­ge re­se­arch in­to how glo­bal war­ming is chan­ging the Ka­roo. Re­se­ar­chers from U­ni­ver­si­ty of Ba­sil, he­a­ded by Klaus Kuhn ha­ve co­me to Mid­del­burg to look for ans­wers on how ve­ge­ta­ti­on and veld are chan­ging. They cho­se Mid­del­burg be­cau­se the veld in this a­rea is de­li­ca­te­ly ba­lan­ced be­t­ween two very dif­fe­rent ve­ge­ta­ti­on ty­pes – grass­lands to the east, and dry Ka­roo to the west.

B­ri­git­te Kuhn u­ses dro­ne techno­lo­gy to ta­ke high-re­so­lu­ti­on pho­to­grap­hs of lands­ca­pes. She pro­grams in a flig­ht-path, fi­ne-tu­nes the in­structi­ons, and off it g­oes, flying within a few se­conds to a heig­ht of a­bout fif­ty me­ters. Zig­zag­ging a­cross the sky, it ta­kes the pho­tos t­hen, at the push of a but­ton, lands it­self back on the ground at her feet.

She ex­plains that the­se are just ver­ti­cal pho­tos, and that the ca­me­ra an­gles and p­ho­to lo­ca­ti­ons can be ad­jus­ted to pro­du­ce a Di­gi­tal E­le­va­ti­on Mo­del of the a­rea, w­he­re the ex­act fe­a­tu­res of the lands­ca­pe – slo­pe, rocks, trees, gul­lies, and ter­mi­te mounds – can be pro­du­ced as a 3-D re­cord of the pre­ci­se ter­rain.

Ne­ar­by, on Alf and B­ren­da Ja­mes’s farm, ot­her re­se­ar­chers are in­ves­ti­ga­ting soil e­ro­si­on. They si­mu­la­te a he­a­vy do­wn­pour on­to e­ro­ded e­arth u­sing wa­ter pum­ped from a drum through a spe­ci­a­li­sed sho­wer-he­ad­look­ing noz­z­le. They ta­ke va­ri­ous ca­re­ful me­a­su­re­ments of how much wa­ter runs off, and how much seeps in­to the soil. A­ma­zingly, on the­se hard, cap­ped soils, al­most all the wa­ter has just run off the sur­fa­ce – dig do­wn a cen­ti­me­t­re and the dry ground is re­vea­led.

Klaus points out: “You think you’ve had a good rain­fall, but how much of that wa­ter is in the soil? How much has just run off the top and been lost?”

This va­lu­a­ble re­se­arch is on­going – the re­se­ar­chers re­turn e­ach y­e­ar, u­su­al­ly with a new group of stu­dents, to con­ti­nue to build up their un­der­stan­ding of the Ka­roo, and w­hat the fu­tu­re holds for it.

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