The Lost World Expedition: A Journey to The Entrance of Ancient Climate and Ecosystem of Doline in Maros Karst Site

By Celebica - Juni 22, 2020


Maros Karst Ecosystem 
Have you ever imagined be in touch with ecosystem from the past thousand years?. It is possibly experienced by exploring beyond an exist ancient climate and ecosystem in remote area of Maros Karst Site, South Sulawesi-Indonesia. This journey will guide you to the lost world expedition!.

Maros karst site is well known as the second world’s largest karst since November 2001. This area is stretched about 43.750 ha from southeast to northern of Maros-Pangkep regencies, Sulawesi Island. The site reflects a long period of karst development which defines thousand years of nature exposures.  One of nature indicators constructing vulnerable condition is Doline ecosystem. 

Doline, literally, is small to large size bowl-shaped depressions of Karst surface. It is greatly varied in their morphology and origins which were formed by interaction of underground cavities and the surface zone.

The location of Maros Karst is shown the map below
Sulawesi and Maros Karst site. Map Data: copyright ESRI (2008)
Targeted Doline was gained by GPS and Google Maps search. It is located about 5.23 km from The National Park of Bantimurung, Maros.  The area is isolated from human’s settlement and classified as Mega-diverse with a significant percentage of endemic species of plants and animals. From the surface, on the google maps, doline shows small to large holes of bowl-shaped.

The First Targeted Doline

The first targeted doline was tracking to 5.32 km from the starting point and hiking around 6.50 km ahead made the researchers discovered an extremely deep of vertical cave as seen on (Figure 2) as single pitch which is the depth about ± 263 m and the width reaches 50 to 80 m.

Researchers were in front of the first-targeted Doline
This location reveals high-relief topography, steep slope-shaped and rough topographic texture. As we looked arround, vegetation type existing in this doline ecosystem has a high- survival potential to adapt with rocky karst which consists of lime and soil.

Flora (Plants)
The plants, mostly, have tough root system and medium to massive stem size as they formed it as food storage in the drought. We pitched out 5 transects of 100 m length of ropes surrounding the cave from different edge sites. We noted that there were 64 sample of endemic plants.

Tera-terasa or Nephalium sp from Sapindaceae family rose as the most dominance species among the plants of those 5 transect lines. As figured out below, this plant is a medium sized tree with stems diameter is 50 cm to 85 cm. It has a strong root and the local peoples believe its juvenile root could heal some diseases, for instance, uric acid, sprain, muscles pain or even magical illnesses.
Researchers measured Tera-Terasa trees diameter
Fauna (Animals)
Maros karst site is also a habitat for highly endemic fauna. Basically, our suspected animals were likely to come from a group of rodents (mice), insects, amphibians and reptiles. However, in this site, we only counted the animals appearance by on the spot observation. We spotted some Mammals and Aves.

We discovered the superior amount of animal appeared from our observation was Tarsier. It is one of protected animals and it becomes the icon of endemic species in National park of Bantimurung. The local people named it as a sitting mouse due to, at a glance, this animal appears like a mouse which is enable to sit on the tree branches. This tiny primate has only about 100 g weight. Another interesting fact about Tarsier is this animal could  rotate its head and neck 180 degree. Even more, we were fascinated on its big eyes, where the pupils look bigger than its body size. This obviously pointed that Tarsier is nocturnal animal where its diet comes from insects and tiny reptiles.

The Second Targeted Doline
It was not too far from the first targeted doline, we only needed to turn to the west and headed around 4.7 km to the northern part. Drone captures helped us to easily find the next doline to explore.

Left: Paddies field sign; Right: The Second-Targeted Doline (Credit by TN BABUL)
As it is clearly illustrated from the drone images above, we were sure where should we head toward. The paddies field also helped us to predict our steps forward. We were impressed since the targeted-Doline this time shown a medium bowl-shaped, which means we could reach the core. Through the GPS guide, we surely hiked inside, stepped down to the centre of doline. Instead of the distance and direction, our constraints came from the track. Accompanied by traditional equipment–wooden stick on the left hand and handy chopper on the right– we carefully stept down the limestones and cut off the wild blushes. In addition, the track  was  extremely dangerous  where steep  slippery and  cranky limestones  became our foothold. This topography evidence compiled the area is used to a water stream which is one of factors of the ancient microclimate was formed.

Left: The Edge Site of Doline (heading to core); Right: Researchers, Cave and Evergreen tree background
The more we headed down to core, the darker and colder it was. The sunlight intensity was low to radiate the ground entirely. While we walked on the center of doline, we found the soil texture was greatly moist, loose and fertile since water flow ended up there and leaves litter covered on the soil’s surface. 

Due to its environment condition was far greater than outer, the vegetation was being plateau as similar as its form in hundred or even thousand years a go. Our finding described this colder Stabil environment defines to ancient climate itself. Hence, the plants surrounding this vegetation are evergreen tree with medium to giant size enriched by high mineral compounds from the soil.

The typical of abiotic components mentioned above, ultimately, affects to micro-ecosystem characteristic as well. Considering to this uniqueness, we also targeted our sample on indigenous microorganisms living in the soil and tree’s rhizosphere which specifically form micro-climate ecosystem. 

Our exploration scopes, therefore, in this second targeted doline covered the sample of plants, animals and microorganisms (from abiotic components). Furthermore, since we found a cave nearby this doline, our additional feature of exploration was added by cave expedition to answer about our curiosity on pre-history of the ancestors’ life.

Flora (Plants)

Eventhought the light intensity is low, the morphological appearance of plants in this location are mostly having evergreen leaves and bigger size of stem and roots. Some of those plants are the same species as we found on the first targeted doline, however, they seemed different by their sizes and leaves brightness. We lined out 20 transects on this area and as a result, there were 90 of endemic species discovered.

Mu’mulu or Vitex pinnata was the most dominance in this site. Its height about 5 to 18 m and its diameter reaches   30 cm to 90 cm. This tree has durable and resistance wood with the density about 930 kg/m3 used for flooring, window, door and some furniture. In addition to this, its leaves and bark are useful for traditional remedies such as stomach ache, dysentery, fever and malaria.

Left: Giant Mu’mulu tree; Right: Mu’mulu trees sapling
Fauna (Animals)
The animals were trapped by various traps such as light trap, capture release trap, suction trap, and pitfall trap. Among those traps, 8 insects and 6 reptiles were succeed to trap in this location.

Microorganism
Suspected isolated-microorganisms sample were obtained from the group of Actinomycetes (Bacteria). There were 18 samples were taken from soil-rooting area or Rhizosphere using SWAB method and random sampling method. 6 of 18 isolate shown inhibition activity from anti-bacteria test of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans. It was gained 2 isolate with moderate inhibition activity coded KLPE 10 and KLPE 6.

Ethnical Issue
The high diversity of population, landscape, and culture makes it as an attractive issue of origins, dispersal and interaction of ancient population. This ethnical study tries to figure out the pre-history life of Maros ancestors. We tried to compile archaeological heritages inside the cave and conducted ethnographic study through interview with the local occupants.

The Cave-Left: Outer look; Right: Inner Look-hog deer painting
In this cave, we discovered prehistoric painting of hog deer. As we interviewed the local people in Maros, they believe the cave we found named Lemba nenne (ancestors’ hunting site). The painting had been drawn on the center of cave wall showing a hof deer was running or jumping, by means the ancestors was hunting this animal as their daily diets. 

A similar pattern of painting is also shown on the other outstanding prehistoric sites in Maros (such as Leang –  leang and  Minasa te’ne sites) which  could  inform  us  that  the  Ancestors  were nomads-staying  and  going from  cave to  cave  as  their shelter-and  hunting as  their  lives survival.

Explorers Club Youth Activity Fund 2018
1. Dean Rizalt Tadisara
2. A. Nurul Virninda Yusuf 
3. M. Sahrul T
4. Mohamed Padri

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