Researchers have rediscovered a seemingly extinct oak tree

The research group supports the only specimen of Quercustardifolia. Credits: United States Botanic Garden

Botanists representing a coalition of more than 10 institutions have discovered an oak tree that was once thought to be extinct and are now in urgent need of protection in Big Bend National Park, Texas.

Researchers led by Morton Arboretum and the United States Botanic Gardens (USBG) were excited to find loneliness. Quercus tardifolia ((((Q. tardifolia) A tree in poor condition, but about 30 feet high. The last living specimen first described in the 1930s was thought to have died in 2011.

“This work is essential to protect the biodiversity that the planet is rapidly losing,” said Dr. Murphy Westwood, Vice President of Science and Conservation at Morton Arboretum. “If you ignore the decline of Q. tardifolia And in other rare endangered trees, we were able to see a myriad of domino effects due to the loss of other organisms in the ecosystem supported by those trees, “she said. .. Q. tardifolia It is considered one of the rarest orcs in the world, if not one.

Credit: Morton Arboretum

Scientists predict that by studying why this tree is extinct, it may be possible to protect other organisms from the same fate.Whether this sample Q. tardifolia You can save it and it remains a problem.

The team, discovered on May 25, 2022, described the tragic scene. The trunk has been burned and shows signs of severe fungal infection. Droughts and fires can end their lives, Climate change This result is more likely to occur each year. The group is currently working with the National Park Service to reduce the threat of an imminent wildfire on trees. Conservation activists in this collaborative study are moving swiftly back in search of acorns to attempt breeding, the process of breeding specimens from parent plants.

“This is important, Joint research Necessary for maintenance Q. tardifoliaCarolyn Whiteing, a botanist at Big Bend National Park, said: There is still much to learn about Chisos orcs. “

“The American Botanical Gardens are excited about the success of this partnership and the collection trip that rediscovered such a rare oak,” Dr. Susan Pell acted. executive director and United States Botanical Garden, Funding and cooperating with the project. “This discovery is just the beginning of a conservation effort in collaboration with Morton Arboretum to better understand and protect threatened trees.”

Other collaborators were the Bartlett Tree Institute and the Arboretum. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center; NatureServe; Polly Hill Arboretum; San Antonio Botanical Garden; University of California, Davis Arboretum and Public Gardens; Sulros State University A. Michael Powell Botanical Specimen.

Molecular analysis may reveal what Quercus tardifolia?

Oak tends to cross or cross and may adapt more quickly to changing climatic conditions such as extreme heat and new illnesses. This frequent mating can also blur the genetic boundaries between oak species in certain ecosystems such as big bends. Molecular analysis checks to see if the DNA of the newly discovered tree matches the DNA of the previous sample. Q. tardifolia, However, according to researchers, analysis can raise more questions than answers.

“This is an interesting question, whether the trees are genetically similar,” said Dr. Andrew Hipp, senior plant phylogenetic scientist and director of the herbarium plant specimens at Morton Arboretum, a genetic analysis team. To other trees previously collected Q. tardifolia.. Now you can see if this collection has the same name as Cornelius H. Muller. Q. tardifolia. It should also tell you if this collection of specimens is genetically sufficiently different from other closely related oaks in the area to justify their recognition as a species. ”

Regardless of classification, Hipp said it was important to conserve more species than individual species, but rather to conserve all genetic variants of life. “Species are genetically distinct populations that we generally recognize in the field,” he said. “But they are not all about conservation. They also aim to protect functional mutations within the species. Leaf shape, physiological response to droughts and fires, and even tree lifespan. An attribute that can be shared by the population. The functional changes represented by these new collections may be necessary to help the orcs in the region adapt. Environmental changes In the near future or in the distant future “

Conservation of oak is important to the ecosystem

Oak is an exception among tree species in that acorns cannot traditionally be seed-banked for conservation purposes. According to researchers, the involvement of the botanical garden is important because they must be preserved in wild or living collections.Researcher who found Q. tardifolia I’m worried that the trees aren’t producing acorns. Other breeding methods, including grafting, are being pursued to protect the future of oak.

“Across the globe, oaks clean the air, filter water, sequester carbon dioxide, and act as ecological anchors to support myriad fungi, insects, birds, and mammals,” explains Westwood. did. “When one is lost, we don’t know what else we could lose forever as a result,” she said.

However, Westwood, Pell and others have warned that such conservation efforts require joint initiatives such as: Oak Global Conservation ConsortiumThe involvement of botanical gardens and various scientific experts to secure the future of endangered trees.

“In many ways, this tree is an ancient relic. Due to climate change, the world is completely different from when it evolved,” said Wesley Knapp, chief botanist at NatureServe, who participated in the expedition. “It is our duty to learn from and protect it while we are still able to inform future conservation efforts,” he said. “Nature rarely gives us a second chance. I don’t think we’ll get a third chance. Don’t waste it.”

A member of the May 2022 expedition that first found loneliness Q. tardifolia The trees include Adam Black from Bartlett Tree Research Laboratories and Arboretum, Michael Eason from San Antonio Botanical Gardens, Emily Grizzold from UC Davis Arboretum and Public Gardens, Wesley Up from Natureserve, John Saltiel from USBG, and Lady Bird Johnson. Wildflower Center Philip Schultz, Elizabeth Includes Polyhill Arboretum Thomas, Sulros State University Kelsey Wargan A. Michael Powell Herbalium, California’s Independent Oak Researcher Zarawiley.

Breakthrough Global Report: One-third of tree species are endangered

Courtesy of Morton Arboretum

Quote: Researchers have rediscovered a seemingly extinct oak tree (7 July 2022).

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Researchers have rediscovered a seemingly extinct oak tree

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