Big leaf mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) is the most prized mahogany timber around the world. It is at risk of extinction in its native habitats because of the timber trade, particularly in Central and South America.
To better understand how such a threatened species can be brought back from the brink of extinction, scientists from the University of Adelaide's Environment Institute have studied the important role played by the trees' pollen in the health and re-growth of mahogany forests.
The results of this study have been published online in Ecology Letters.
The researchers found that the extensive exploitation of mahogany forests has had a major impact on the diversity and availability of the trees' pollen. This in turn limits the ability of individual trees to grow and provide cross-fertilization for other mahogany trees.
"We collected data across seven Central American countries* which shows that trees remaining in cleared forest areas suffer from too much self-fertilization and low pollen diversity," says lead author Martin Breed, a PhD student with the University of Adelaide's Environment Institute and the School of Earth & Environmental Sciences.
"This results in less competitive seedlings and affects the rate of re-growth of the species."
Mr Breed says to restore forests would require replanting key species and finding good-quality seeds from healthy trees. "Growing new mahogany trees has proven a major challenge in the past. By better understanding the importance of pollen diversity, we hope this research provides the key to restoring forests at a much higher rate.
"Ensuring seed is collected from healthy populations will improve our chances of protecting not only mahogany, but the hundreds of other species - and human communities - that rely on it," he says.
Senior co-author Professor Andrew Lowe, Director of the Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity at the University of Adelaide, says: "Aside from being one of the world’s most prized timbers, every mahogany tree provides habitat for hundreds of animals and plants, so they’re ecologically very important."
He says this discovery has the potential to impact the way we think about restoring forests and shows us why it is vital to protect areas of high conservation value.
"Preserving areas where large populations of species have existed for the longest time not only assures the future of these iconic sites, but also provides insurance for entire species beyond the sites themselves," Professor Lowe says.
The project was largely funded from the European Union through the project SEEDSOURCE, with a portion of the funding coming from a grant awarded by the Australian Research Council.
Dr Carlos Navarro, who was employed by CATIE (the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center) in Costa Rica at the time, was primarily responsible for directing the fieldwork and the collection of leaf and seed material used in the analysis and was the researcher who did the growth assessments.
* the seven countries are: Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama
Media contacts:Martin Breed
Martin Breed | Newswise Science News
International network connects experimental research in European waters
21.03.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
World Water Day 2017: It doesn’t Always Have to Be Drinking Water – Using Wastewater as a Resource
17.03.2017 | ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
23.03.2017 | Life Sciences
23.03.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
23.03.2017 | Earth Sciences