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Pollen can protect mahogany from extinction
Date:4/3/2012

New research from the University of Adelaide 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.

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 h
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Contact: Martin Breed
martin.breed@adelaide.edu.au
61-883-137-032
University of Adelaide
Source:Eurekalert

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