A field activity for student groups studying the Bladen River at BFREE and beyond
Author, Amy Treonis, Department of Biology, University of Richmond, Richmond, VA
Introduction: The Bladen River is one of the most spectacular features of the BFREE field station, offering countless opportunities for ecological research. The Upper Bladen watershed flows through the tropical broadleaf forest of the Bladen Nature Reserve, arriving at BFREE in a remarkably pristine state. From there, the river flows downstream into the Monkey River and ultimately empties into the Caribbean Sea at Monkey River Town. The river flows through a landscape that is a mosaic of protected and agricultural lands, including cattle pastures, banana plantations and subsistence farms (i.e., milpa). Replacement of riparian vegetation with agriculture has destabilized soils in many places, resulting in increased erosion and sedimentation throughout the watershed. Ultimately, this impacts both wildlife and people that depend on the river’s health. The river’s course has also been affected by natural events, such as Hurricane Earl in 2016.