Super trees and regeneration: will it work?

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Terry Pratchett translates “Ook” in orang-utan in his book Men At Arms to mean: “It may be just vital biomass oxygenating the planet to you, but it’s home to me” (or alternatively, “I’m sure there was a rainforest around here a moment ago”).

And while I don’t claim to understand orang-utan language, I can agree with all those sentiments – rainforests are vital biomass oxygenating the planet, and we do need to preserve them as far as possible, and revegetate where we can. This is also true for other forests areas, although many of those too have been wiped out almost totally.

David Milarch thinks that one way to assist in the healthy re-growth of forested areas is the cloning of ancient trees: Milarch believes that these ancient trees, as well as being iconic in the landscape and often being associated with human history (as with the ancient oak in Sherwood Forest pictured above), have ‘super-genes’ which have allowed them to survive where other trees have not.

While this theory may be debatable, there is no doubt that the groups Milarch works with have produced healthy clones from a variety of trees in a variety of countries, and these trees have been given away to be planted in hopes of building up a healthy tree population.

This program will have a beneficial effect on biodiversity in that it will provide a geographic diversity for these particular trees. It won’t, however, provide genetic diversity within species, and won’t necessarily provide species diversity within a given area. All three aspects of diversity, as well as a diversity of soil micro-organisms and large and small flora and fauna, are necessary in order to provide the UK (in this instance) with a robust forest ecosystem.

So while this is one small step for one man (well, a few people and some trees), it doesn’t address the forest regeneration problem: for that, we need the full orchestra, not just the trombone.

[Featured image:  The major oak in Sherwood Forest which supposedly sheltered Robin Hood. Image in public domain.]


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