So many IPS members were looking forward to visiting Reunion Island for the 2020 IPS Biennial. The coronavirus pandemic forced us to forgo planned travel and group events, and stay-at-home orders have us longing to get outside. In lieu of a real hike in forest, we offer you this virtual hike.
The islands of the Mascarene archipelago were formed by emerging volcanoes. Reunion Island is steep and mountainous, encompassing two adjoining volcanic massifs. The iconic pitons (peaks), three natu-rally occurring amphitheaters or cirques, and the steep rock walls known as ramparts are recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site. It is this topography which provides many disparate ecosystems thereby creating tremendous variability of flora. For example, the eastern coast, in 1987 received rainfall totaling 2735 mm over a three-day period (which is reportedly a world record), while the western coast is a dry ecosystem supporting many Euphorbia species. The archipelago is isolated, and as a result species have had substantial time to evolve. Of the nearly 600 endemic species to the Mascarene Islands, most are on Reunion in part due to the inaccessibility of the central moun-tainous interior. Thus, the flora was protected from human encroachment.
Virtual hiking on Reunion Island, highlands edition
We will begin our hike in the mountainous interior visiting the Belouve forest. This is a primary forest with unique biodiversity. We will encounter endless waterfalls, and the scents and sounds of what is referred to as an enchanted forest. The forest is moist and often foggy. There will be spectacular views from the edge of the ramparts. The path will likely be wet. Two enormous pitons will be visible. Here, at 1500 meters elevation, we will find Acanthophoenix crinita.