Greening Up

Early Season in the Dalbay Valley

When we arrived at camp this year on the 1st June, we were all struck by how brown and yellow it looked. There was virtually no green vegetation out on the steppe slope, and the ground around the camp itself was mostly dust with hardly any plant material, green or otherwise. Even Ariuna Lkhagva, an ecologist who has been visiting this valley for a decade (and currently PhD student at University of Wyoming) said that this year the valley seemed to be particularly hard hit. We don’t know the reason for this; perhaps more intensive grazing through the winter months, or maybe a combination of grazing and unfavourable weather – perhaps even a result of the very dry summer last year?

Maybe this year the growing season is just slow to get started? Last year, likewise arriving at the beginning of June, I was thrown into the thick of a beautiful show of steppe flowers – the nodding heavy purple Pulsatilla flowers (Pasque flower in vernacular English, perhaps due to their early flowering habits?), the bright splashes of the short yellow Iris. And a host of other flowers – small blue Amblynotus (a forget-me-not like species) and bright blue Gentian eyes, the leggy weedy white of the Arenaria (Sandwort), the tall abundant star-like white Thalictrum (Rue), and the common classic yellow flowers of several Potentilla species (Cinquefoils/Strawberries). More notably perhaps, last year most of the grasses (Poa, Festuca, Hierochloe, Koeleria) and the sedge (Carex) started flowering in significant numbers just a few days after our arrival. This year however, there still isn’t any sign of this yet, and we are wondering if the season will ever catch up!

We’re not the only ones interested in flowering grasses…


Other news at camp is that late last night we had the arrival of two vehicles and an influx of people champing at the bit to do field ecology, including two of the Principal Investigators (Bazartseren Boldgiv and Brent Helliker), Ariuna, and several Mongolian undergraduates, as well as Hascha, our cook. The camp was consequently a hive of activity from early this morning, unpacking food to add to the stores, starting chores, pitching tents, exploring the steppe, watering plots, moving fence posts, chopping wood etc etc.

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