Photo: Mapping the Wollemi Pine genome could take until the end of 2020. (ABC News: Jonathan Hair) Related Story: Secret bid to save prehistoric Wollemi Pines Related Story: Precious Wollemi pine trees flourishing at the National Arboretum Hidden in a top secret location within a national park near Sydney, are some of the rarest trees on earth — so rare that anyone found putting them at risk can be handed huge fines, or jailed. Key points: It’s the first time the Wollemi Pine’s genome has been mapped The tree is extremely endangered with only 140 plants left in the wild The project aims to establish if the pine has the genetic infrastructure to defend itself against diseases
The severe safeguards are for good reason — the Wollemi Pine, a tree which outlived the dinosaurs, is so critically endangered that the wild population could be wiped out by disease in an instant. But a new research project is aiming to unlock the secrets of the ancient species, by mapping its genome for the first time. “There’s about 140 individual plants in the wild, and that’s it,” said David Crust from the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. “And the other thing that makes it really rare is it’s confined to a really small geographic area,” he said. That geographic area is the Wollemi National Park, located to the north-west of Sydney.
Photo: The Wollemi Pine’s genome is twice the size of the human genome. (ABC News: Jonathan Hair)
Until recently, the Wollemi Pine was thought to be extinct because it was only found in fossils that were millions of years old. But in 1994, ranger David Noble discovered the trees growing in the wild. Since then, huge efforts have been made to protect the pines, including making their location top-secret and restricted — because they are extremely susceptible to disease. “There’s really serious penalties … fines of up to $220,000 and imprisonment of up to two years for any act that endangers the plant,” Mr Crust said. “The reason [the locations] are confidential is so we can protect the pines from any kind of disturbance or damage,” he said. Researchers from the National Herbarium of New South Wales and Deakin University have teamed up to map the Wollemi’s genome — a huge task which could take until the end of next year.
Photo: The exact location of the pines is kept secret to protect them from damage. (Jaime Plaza/Botanic Gardens Trust)
It will help the scientists to better understand why the Wollemi’s wild population has declined to critical levels. “The question we’re asking is, does the Wollemi Pine have the genetic infrastructure to provide resistance and a defence against those diseases,” Dr Maurizio Rossetto said. “We’ll have a better understanding of how to manage it on site, but also how to translocate it into a new location, if that’s what we decide to do in the future,” he said. “Maybe being in that location for such a long time, it didn’t need as much protection,” Larry Croft from Deakin University said. The work is not easy — the pine’s genome is twice the size of the human genome. When asked if there is a chance the Wollemi is not equipped to survive in the modern world, Dr Rossetto concedes it is a possibility. “Unfortunately it is one of the possible reasons why it’s rare,” he said. “It doesn’t have the genetic make-up to resist some of the introduced, or even the native natural diseases.” If that’s the case, saving the Wollemi Pine’s wild population will take more than keeping its location top-secret.
A small victory in our fight for our environment. Activism works again thanks to all who shared posts and contacted the departments.
The aerial spraying of RoundUp within Wollongong and Shellharbour cities will be subjected to a complete review following public uproar over its use, it has been revealed.
Thousands of people had voiced their concern it was reported the spraying was set to commence this month, covering Perkins Beach and Hill 60 at Port Kembla, Coniston Beach, and Bass Point.
Wollongong City Council had earlier announced it would review its use of weed suppression strategies to make sure they fit community expectations.
“We have listened to the concerns of the community with regards the use of Roundup, and are looking to refine or adjust methods to manage the bitou bush on the five targeted sites using the best science available,” Cr Bradbery, the Illawarra Shoalhaven Joint Organisation chair, said.
“I have requested a complete review to be undertaken of the proposed aerial spraying with RoundUp across targeted Illawarra sites by the IDWA.”
If you want your local shire , school neighbours to stop using roundup please send them this letter
Glyphosate (roundup) aerial spraying in Port Kembla What about the honeybees, indigenous bees and the honey contamination? Residents are concerned that just as some countries are banning the herbicide glyphosate – it will be sprayed from the sky above them in Port Kembla. Residents were informed recently that the Illawarra District Weeds Authority would be spraying from helicopters in late June. It’s part of annual spraying to combat Bitou…
Every day, apart from when it’s raining heavily, Dr Qing Li heads to a leafy park near the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo where he works. It’s not just a pleasant place to eat his lunch; he believes the time spent under the trees’ canopy is a critical factor in the fight against diseases, of the mind and body.
Once a month Li spends three days in forests near Tokyo, using all five senses to connect with the environment and clear his mind. This practice of shinrin-yoku – literally, forest bath – has the power to counter illnesses including cancer, strokes, gastric ulcers, depression, anxiety and stress, he says. It boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure and aids sleep. And soon it could be prescribed by British doctors.
“Forest bathing is an opportunity for people to take time out, slow down and connect with nature. We think it could be part of the mix of activities for social prescription,” Stuart Dainton of the Woodland Trust told the Observer. “Evidence about its benefits is building.”