Every species plays its part in the tree of life

It was a perfect day for a hike through the ravines of the Apalachicola River basin north of the Gulf in the Florida panhandle. Dozens of biologists got to spend over an hour on the forest floor listening to E.O. Wilson talk about biodiversity and reminisce on the conditions of life in his old stomping grounds. A beautiful day to interact with other great scientists on how to bring the Florida torreya back from the brink of extinction.

The race is on to save this beautiful rare tree, because all life is connected and we are connected to all life on earth. Experts in conservation, forestry and biodiversity have teamed up to plan how best to protect this ancient conifer.

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

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

Visiting botanist to speak on the biodiversity of New Caledonia.

Please join us for a seminar on Tuesday, October 31, at 12:30, by Gildas Gateble, from Institut Agronomique neo-Caledonien. The title of his talk will be: “An overview of New Caledonia’s plant biodiversity: Origins, characteristics, and threats, with a focus on the genus Oxera” . The seminar is co-sponsored by the UF School of Forest Resources and Conservation and the UF Biodiversity Institute.