News at a glance: Q&A with E. O. Wilson

Today in the journal Science,  renowned biologist and writer Edward O. Wilson reflects on his experiences in the Florida panhandle, and answers some questions about the critically endangered Florida torreya tree.

Three Qs

E. O. Wilson wants to save rare Florida tree

Government officials, conservationists, and researchers—including renowned Harvard University biologist Edward O. Wilson—will gather next week in Bristol, Florida, to discuss the fate of the Florida torreya (Torreya taxifolia). Also known as stinking cedar, it is considered by many to be the most endangered tree species in the world. A deadly fungus has killed all but about 1000 trees, most of which grow along a 56-kilometer stretch of Florida’s Apalachicola River, and the pathogen has already infected the remaining trees. Science caught up with Wilson, who has been called “the father of biodiversity,” on the eve of his trip to the meeting.

Q:When did you first find out the Florida torreya was in trouble?

A:In July 1957. I was collecting ants up and down the Florida peninsula and panhandle. At Torreya State Park, we got a lot of good stuff. But we noticed that this marvelous endemic [tree] from the ice age was wilted. So, this is how it began, and now it’s on its last legs.

Q:What makes this tree and region special to you?

A:It’s where I come from, where I spent my boyhood. Not exactly there, but an area like that. I go to somewhere on the Gulf Coast several times a year, as I’ve been active in doing research to propose a new national park in the Mobile-Tensaw River delta [in Alabama] and to promote the setting up of a biodiversity corridor [that] would stretch from somewhere around Tallahassee and along the Gulf Coast as far as Louisiana. The Apalachicola River might be part of that.

Q:Can this tree be saved?

A:There is an out. The torreya has become a reasonably popular ornamental, and it’s being widely distributed. And in the return of the American chestnut, where there seemed to be no hope after it went completely extinct—therein lies the story of what could happen to the torreya. I’d like to see the torreya become a symbol and an issue that people are interested in.

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/359/6378/848.full

More information concerning the upcoming event is available here…

Torreya Tree of Life

 

Grafting class

With spring in the air, today was a good day for a grafting workshop. Forest pathology students used grafting techniques at the SFRC Plant Growth Complex, with quaking aspen rootstock and scions collected in Texas.

Ocheesee Landing on the Apalachicola River

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) dismantled and relocated the historic  Gregory House from its original location at Ocheesee Landing across the Apalachicola River to the east bank.

The high bluffs overlooking the mighty river provide one of north Florida’s most scenic landscapes.

The Gregory House is now home to the visitor center at Torreya State Park. 

 

Announcing: Torreya – Tree of Life event!

The Florida Torreya, Torreya taxifolia, is in grave danger of disappearing from the wild. Its range has shrunk to three counties on the Florida-Georgia border northwest of Tallahassee. Given this last opportunity to learn about the natural biome of a rare and beautiful conifer, a team of biologists will assemble at Torreya State Park on March 1-2, 2018. Experts will sample and survey the ecosystem associated with T. taxifolia from soil microbiology to flora and fauna, and brainstorm a plan to help save this beautiful tree for future generations to enjoy.

More information concerning the event is available here…

Torreya Tree of Life

 

FBRC annual meeting at Austin Cary

Today Dr. Hulcr, Dr. Smith and Dr. Carton de Grammont are at the Forest Biology Research Cooperative annual meeting talking about Forest Health and the role that ProForest plays in furthering collaborative research, extension and education.
The meeting is at the beautiful Austin Cary Memorial Forest. Just a reminder of how a #health #managed #forest looks!

Redbay planting at Ordway-Swisher Biological Station

It was a cold and rainy north central Florida December day, but that didn’t slow down restoration planting of redbay seedlings at a protected site near Gainesville, FL. Strains of redbay that have displayed resistance to the laurel wilt pathogen were planted in the cool wet weather. They will be studied in the effort to save Persea borbonia populations across the southeast by reintroducing tolerant germplasm.

Survey at Torreya State Park

Biologists from the Florida Park Service and US FWS, conservation researchers from the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, local volunteers and the UF/SFRC Forest Pathology lab gathered in the panhandle of Florida on steep ravines near the Apalachicola River to survey pockets of the wild population of Torreya taxifolia.  Most of the previously mapped trees were found surviving and a new recruitment seedling was reported! However damage from deer browse was also noted, and surviving trees could not be described as thriving for the most part. It was a beautiful day to explore the habitat of this relict conifer, and to give thanks that we can play a role in learning about its place in the natural history of this area.

No rest for the laurels: symbiotic invaders cause unprecedented damage to southern USA forests

Laurel wilt is an extraordinarily destructive exotic tree disease in the southeastern United States that involves new-encounter hosts in the Lauraceae, an introduced vector (Xyleborus glabratus) and pathogen symbiont (Raffaelea lauricola). USDA Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis data were used to estimate that over 300 million trees of redbay (Persea borbonia sensu lato) have succumbed to the disease since the early 2000s (ca 1/3 of the pre-invasion population). In addition, numerous native shrub and tree species in the family are susceptible and  threatened in the Western Hemisphere. Genetic markers were used to test the hypothesis that the vector and pathogen entered North America as a single introduction. With a portion of the cytochrome oxidase I gene, a single Xglabratus haplotype was detected in the USA. Similarly, Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphisms indicated that 95% (54 of 57) of the isolates of Rlauricola that were examined were of a single clonal genotype; only minor variation was detected in three polymorphic isolates. Similar levels of disease developed after swamp bay (Ppalustris) was inoculated with each of the four genotypes of Rlauricola. It is proposed that a single founding event is responsible for the laurel wilt epidemic in the United States.

Biological Invasions, July 2017, Volume 19, Issue 7, pp 2143–2157