When the arctic world is covered in snow and ice and the sun stays behind the horizon for months, the best you can do is go south, to the summer on the southern hemisphere. While the plants in the Swedish part of our experiment try to battle the frost, we had the chance to travel down dusty roads to the other side of the world to measure the southern equivalent of our experiment (more here).
In the absolute south of Chile, in the hills around the city of Punta Arenas, the climate is more or less similar to what we see in Northern Scandinavia. The harsh weather makes the life of plant invaders a big struggle. We had an intense week of counting seedling survival, measuring soil temperatures and collecting soil samples there at the end of March. It was a fantastic week of sun and wind, with fabulous views on the street of Magellan, the southern passageway around the American mainland.
Fieldwork that far from home is a bit scary, because you can not keep an eye on it and check if everything is going fine. Luckily, our seeds were doing what we hoped for. We found them back on the mountains were we left them behind, which is already a big relief.
Chile is a land full of alien species. Everywhere you go, in all cities, and along every roadside and walking trail, European species claimed the space of the native vegetation (see picture). Dandelions, clover, European grasses, they even seem to grow larger here than in their native range. It only proves the importance of our research every time again.
The Chilean mountains are an area of uncanning natural beauty and it is very important for their conservation to know what to expect from alien invasive plants in the future. With this research, a lot of the remaining mysteries will be solved. And that is what we need to save this fantastic world.