|Home > Agriculture Pavilion > Modern Noah's Ark > Preserving Forest Genetic Resources Permanently, Pollens, Seeds and Mother Trees Are All Treasures|
Preserving Forest Genetic Resources Permanently, Pollens, Seeds and Mother Trees Are All Treasures
With regard to Taiwan's abundant forest resources, the Taiwan Forestry Research Institute (TFRI) has quietly preserved tree seeds and managed genetic resource experiment areas in the past 40-50 years. Depending on information and data kept by his predecessors, silviculturist Dr. Chung, Chen-teh took charge of TFRI's genetic resource experiment sites. "I am the third-generation manager," said Dr. Chung.
Unlike farm crops that grow only for a short time, the lifespan of trees is always tens or hundreds of years. In earlier days, forest tree preservation was due to economic considerations and the TFRI set up a tree genetic resources vault for cone seeds of Taiwan's five major conifers, noted Chung. When logging was still practiced in Taiwan, seeds of such precious trees as Taiwan red cypress, Hinoki cypress, Luanta-fir, incense cedar and Taiwania cryptomerioides would be collected first for conservation in case they are needed for future reproduction.
Since maintaining the whole forest ecology has become more important in recent years, coniferous tree species at low altitude have been added to the TFRI's tree genetic resources vault and even ferns are included in the TFRI list of species for biodiversity preservation.
The TFRI tree seed bank began to preserve Taiwan's tree seeds in 1956 and has since collected 1,090 seed units of 226 tree species. The TFRI has stored collected tree seeds at different refrigeration temperatures according to their characteristics after the institute renovated its storage equipment in 2000, hoping to preserve the seeds' best vitality and make them genetic resources of forest new force.
In addition to conserving seeds, Dr. Chung said, the TFRI also collects pollens and use tissue cultures with an aim to preserve various forest genetic resources with every possible way. For example, there are only more than 500 Keteleeria formosana Hayata, a very precious tree species, left in Taiwan. When their pollens are stunted due to unusual weather, the pollen bank could provide conserved pollens to pollinate mother trees. With good preservation conditions, pollens stored in a low-temperature environment can maintain their vitality for more than 5 years, providing pollens needed for future tree reproduction.
And tissue cultures can carry on in laboratory the excellent genetic materials of tree species which are difficult to survive by such asexual reproduction methods as cutting or grafting. For instance, Chinese yew contains the precursor of anti-cancer chemotherapy drug taxol and such special element can be extracted from tissue cultures, so there is no need to cut trees for it.
The Forestry Bureau has set up scion garden and seed garden for quality mother trees as another method of "ex situ conservation." Seeds and scions collected from the gardens are sent to cultivate seedlings in the nursery of a district forest office, while excess seeds collected in the year of abundant harvest are kept in Dongshih Forest District Office's tree seed storage center as logistic supply of seedling cultivation. Mother trees with beautiful shape, excellent health and strong fertility are, of course, priority choices for genetic resources perservation.
Just like the Forestry Bureau, the TFRI has many genetic resources experiment sites. Serving as germplasm banks in national forests, such seed gardens have been set up on an aggregate land area of more than 30 hectares since 1965 and accumulated records of more than 100,000 trees. The TFRI Silviculture Division checks every year these registered trees to make sure the number plates are not damaged and remove weeds. If these important trees are destroyed by such natural disasters as typhoon or flooding, the preserved genetic resources can be used for reproduction.
Although the TFRI preserved mainly coniferous tree seeds in earlier days, Dr. Chung said, the institute has also established bases to conserve genetic resources of broad-leaved trees, including Zelkova formosana, Pistacia chinensis, Michelia formosana, Cinnamomum camphora and Machilus konishii. The aim is to ensure that with proper conservation such unique Taiwan tree species, which have become increasingly scarce because of habitat decrease or with high economic value, will not disapear from Taiwan's forests.