Pollen can protect mahogany from extinction

New research involving Environment Institute members Martin Breed and Andy Lowe, could help protect one of the world’s most globally threatened tree species – the big leaf mahogany – from extinction.

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.

Martin Breed, one of the key researchers involved in this paper

The important role played by the trees’ pollen in the health and re-growth of mahogany forests has been studied in order to better understand how such a threatened species can be brought back from the brink of extinction.

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.

According to Professor Andy Lowe, 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

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.

Read the full media release to find out more about the results of this research and what Martin and Andy have to say about their findings.

The paper is titled ‘Shifts in reproductive assurance strategies and inbreeding costs associated with habitat fragmentation in Central American mahogany’ and involves Environment Institute members Martin Breed, Michael Gardner (also from Flinders University), Kym Ottewell (also from Tutane University, New Orleans), Andrew Lowe (also from DENR) and Carlos Navarro from Universidad Nacional, Costa Rica.

Read the full paper published in Ecology Letters

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