This year has whizzed by yet again – a blur of activity in a changing and sometimes challenging research landscape!
In our unit, I am concerned with the dwindling number of tree seed scientists world-wide. This year, we lost a core member, Marnie Light, who has taken up a research role in the palm oil industry. Marnie was our deputy co-ordinator for the past three years. On behalf of this unit, I would like to thank you for your enthusiasm, input and particularly web-master skills. We will miss you!
I also would like to remind everyone that this blog is the main means for communication in our IUFRO Unit 2.09.03. Please send me information on techniques, jobs and conferences, which I will upload as soon as possible. I am also looking for guest bloggers for 2017. I would like to publish one blog per month. So if you are interested, then please contact me for further details.
Wishing you all the very best over the Festive Season and for the New Year ahead!
Introduction to ‘guest blog’ (by Shelagh McCartan)
Rosemary Newton is an ecologist with a seed background. She is based at RBG Kew, UK. In her blog, she discusses the prickly challenges of collecting seeds for conservation.
Guest Blog byRosemary Newton ( Career Development Fellow (Islands) at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, UK)
One of the strategic outputs of the Science Strategy of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is to bank 25% of the world’s plant species by 2020. Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) Partnership is working with partners in 80 countries to achieve this target. One of these partners is the National Parks Trust of the Virgin Islands (NPTVI), based on Tortola, one of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) in the Caribbean. The Flora of the West Indies documents approximately 940 seed plant species (including non-native species) recorded from the four largest islands in BVI. The vegetation on the islands comprises mainly tropical dry forest, dry scrub, mesic forest in the higher elevations, salt ponds in low-lying areas and mangrove swamps along the coast. Since 2003, 112 seed collections of 82 plant species have been made by Kew and NPTVI staff from eight of the approximately 60 islands that comprise the BVI archipelago.
In June 2016, Kew’s United Kingdom Overseas Territories (UKOTs) team travelled to the British Virgin Islands to launch a Tropical Important Plant Areas (TIPAs) project, the aim of which is to assess and map TIPAs in the BVI to enable local authorities to prioritise their protection and conservation efforts. Following the workshop which was held at the J.R. O’Neal Botanical Gardens, the UKOTs team and regional collaborators embarked on day trips to previously unexplored areas on the islands of Tortola, Beef Island, Virgin Gorda, Great Tobago and Prickly Pear in search of new, rare and threatened plants and also to map the occurrence of invasive plant species. A new species for the MSB which we were able to collect seed from was the spiny legume Pictetia aculeata, endemic to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Tom Heller and Colin Clubbe collecting Pictetia aculeata seed on Beef Island
Many of the plant species on the islands possess spines or thorns, which makes moving through dense vegetation a painstakingly slow process! One species of Cactaceae, Opuntia repens, made an unforgettable impression on the team as we made our way across the island of Great Tobago. Commonly called the jumping cactus, this plant has perfected the art of vegetative reproduction, as segments readily break off from the plant when touched and the barbed spines attach securely to clothing and even the covered skin beneath. We very quickly learned not to try to remove the segments with our bare hands but to carefully flick them away with a stout stick. Although the primary mode of reproduction and dispersal in this species is vegetative, these plants produce very attractive flowers.
The jumping cactus, Opuntia repens, in flower on Great Tobago
An attractive native tree that we encountered and that is widespread across the region is Coccoloba uvifera of the Polygonaceae, locally known as the sea grape. This dioecious plant is useful for coastal dune stabilisation as it is both wind resistant and salt tolerant. It is also an attractive ornamental shrub, with the female plants producing large bunches of edible fruit that are purple when ripe and that are consumed raw, used to make jam or fermented to produce sea grape wine. Unfortunately, we were unable to collect seeds from this species on this trip as the fruits were still green and so not yet ripe. However, the MSB does have a couple of seed collections of this species conserved in the bank from other localities.
Coccoloba uvifera, commonly known as the sea grape, with unripe fruits
Fruits on the islands form an important part of the diet of indigenous iguanas. On the limestone island of Anegada we met up with Kelly Bradley from Fort Worth Zoo, a conservation biologist studying the Critically Endangered Anegada iguana (Cyclura pinguis). This species was reduced to a population of fewer than 300 individuals due to pressures from feral domestic animals, in particular cats, which kill hatchlings and juveniles for food. In 1997 a headstart facility was built to enable conservationists to rear hatchlings in captivity. This facility has been successfully rearing animals until they are large enough to survive alongside cats and can be released back into the wild. Whether the passage of seeds within fruits through the iguana’s gut facilitates seed dispersal and promotes germination or is detrimental to seed viability is still largely unknown. As the iguanas’ range became restricted to Anegada during the last deglaciation, the role of the iguana in recruitment of fruit-bearing plants is being investigated by Kelly and Kew staff member, Martin Hamilton, with NPTVI colleagues.
A juvenile Anegada iguana at the headstart facility
As a relatively new member of the UKOTs team, this field trip was a memorable introduction to the unique flora of BVI and the challenges facing plant conservation in the region. On this trip we were able to collect seed from plant species on Prickly Pear and Beef Island, two new localities for the MSB. In total, 12 collections of eight species new to the MSB were accessioned.
Thanks to Dr Martin Hamilton for organising the logistics, Kelly Bradley for showing us the Anegada iguana headstart facility, and Kew, NPTVI and Puerto Rico colleagues for sharing their knowledge and expertise of the local flora. The BVI TIPAs project is funded by HSBC through the 150th Anniversary Fund and the seed collecting work is funded by the Garfield-Weston Foundation through the Global Tree Seed Bank Project. Regional collaborations and capacity building for NPTVI staff are being made possible through the Darwin Plus funded project [DPLUS030] “Building systems and capacity to monitor and conserve BVI’s flora”.
Following on from our last post in which we (very sadly!) had to cancel our proposed conference, we thought it was time for a short update! Actually, at the moment we don’t have too much to share in the way of any recent updates, but really we do need some updated information from you, the ‘followers’ of the IUFRO 2.09.03 Tree Seed Technology and Physiology Blog.
The International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) HQ would like to construct a VIRTUAL ADDRESS BOOK of all the active members within our group, the IUFRO 2.09.03 Tree Seed Technology and Physiology group (that means you, if you are reading this)!
So, please kindly send your details to me by Monday 13th June. Information required is as per the following example:
First Name: John
Last Name: Doe
Organization: United Foresters of Austria
Unfortunately, the conference organisers have decided to cancel the IUFRO WG 2.09.03 Tree Seed Technology and Physiology Conference, which was scheduled for later this year. Despite an enormous effort to try and arrange this conference, there was very poor interest and uptake by members, along with a huge potential financial risk to Forest Research. However, should there be sufficient interest shown in the future, there is a strong possibility that a conference can be arranged. We wish you all the best for your research endeavours, and would like to encourage you to continue your excellent research in tree seed physiology and technology.
PLEASE NOTE: We regret that this conference has, unfortunately, been cancelled! We have retained the details here for future reference only. We apologise for any inconvenience.
Registration and abstract submission details for the 2016 IUFRO Tree Seed Physiology and Technology Conference are now available! Click here for all the information on the conference to be held from the 29th June – 1st July 2016 in Portsmouth (UK).
Please note that the final date for registration, payment and abstract submission is Friday 27th May 2016.
We do realise that this is relatively short notice, but we would encourage you to make every effort to attend and to present your research. We do require a minimum of 15 delegates for the conference to proceed, but hope to see many tree seed scientists in Portsmouth at the end of June 2016.
Three broad themes for the conference are as follows:
Technology: testing, stratifying and storing tree seeds.
Physiology and ecology: germination and dormancy breakage of tree seeds in a changing climate.
Pests and pathogens: detection and eradication of current and emerging threats in tree seeds.
We look forward to your participation!
Shelagh McCartan, on behalf of the Organising Committee
We would like to invite you to present your research related to tree seed physiology and technology at the IUFRO WG 2.09.03 conference, which will be hosted by Forest Research, an agency of Forestry Commission, Great Britain.
The conference, to be held from 29th June to 1st July 2016, will be held in Portsmouth (UK), which is a cosmopolitan, waterfront city with good road and rail transport links.
We look forward to seeing you there! More details regarding the registration and costs will be available shortly.
Shelagh McCartan, on behalf of the Organising Committee
Some of you may know that one of my (Marnie Light’s) favourite topics of research is related to the effects of plant-derived smoke on seed germination. In November last year, I attended a ‘special session’ on smoke ecology at the 6th International Fire Ecology & Management Congress organised by the Association for Fire Ecology (AFE). The special session was hosted by Dr Mary Lata, who arranged the programme for the special session. It was fantastic to have an entire session dedicated to this topic, and a great opportunity for me to meet Prof. Jon Keeley (USA) and Prof. Mark Ooi (Australia), as well as several other researchers in the field.
Following some discussion with the organisers and the Editor-in-Chief of the South African Journal of Botany, it was decided to run a special issue on ‘Smoke Ecology and Applications of Plant-Derived Smoke‘ in the journal. The aim of this is to highlight some of the research presented at the AFE congress, as well as to publish articles on related topics.
We are inviting anyone who has carried out research relating to the effects of plant-derived smoke on seed germination or plant growth (smoke ecology/technology) to submit their manuscripts for inclusion in this special issue.
At the end of November 2015, the following article was published in the Australian Journal of Botany. A worthwhile read, the article discusses some problems with using mean time to germination (MGT) for comparing pairs or groups of means to evaluate seed vigour since MGT is an ‘index of germination speed’. Rather, the authors suggest using t50 (time to 50% germination). For more detailed information, get your own copy by clicking on the title link below! This is definitely a useful article for seed scientists, and also contains several references to other papers discussing germination measurements.
The position of Seed Technology Manager has become available in the Research Department at the Stark Ayres Head Office in Johannesburg (South Africa). Deadline for application is 15 January 2016, and more information can be found here: Seed Technology Manager – KFN – Dec 2015
Reporting to the Research Manager, the purpose of the position is twofold:
(1) To develop, seek, test and implement seed treatments and technologies to complement Starke Ayres genetics, and
(2) To oversee functioning of the QA process by taking into account all relevant data for each seed lot (genetic purity, seed health, germination and vigour) and deciding on the most appropriate course of action in order to maximize rapid sale of approved seed and minimize risk for potentially problematic seed lots.
Continuously look out for new ways to positively complement and add value to the genetics of Starke Ayres seeds.
Oversee implementation and adoption of validated treatments/methods into the factory.
Design and develop novel seed treatment processes to apply seed treatment formulations to seeds that maintain or improve upon treated seed characteristics and that are transferable to manufacturing.
Monitor trends in quality parameters (moisture / germination) of stored seed lots to ensure minimal loss of saleable seed.
Oversee the Quality assurance process from a high level to co-ordinate results from the seed germination laboratory, the biotechnology laboratory and pathology laboratory.