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|October 22, 7:49 pm CT|
Plant a Tree for FREE - More Information
Reforestation of the Monarch Butterfly Over-Wintering Area
This year, La Cruz Habitat Protection Project planted 350,000 trees with LCHPP-Mexico and also sponsored the planting of 100,000 trees previously purchased by the Michoacan Reforestation Fund. By the end of the 2009 planting season, LCHPP-Mexico had planted over 4.5 million trees in Michoacan, since it's inception in 1997. EcologyFund has helped pay for 200,000 seedlings and continues to support the project.
The trees are planted in areas that have been deforested in the past and will be used to provide a buffer for the remaining old-growth areas that are necessary for the migratory monarch butterfly population to over-winter. Some of these areas will also serve as sustainable woodlots to provide for local needs and prevent the further destruction of the virgin oyamel fir forests. The result will be to conserve the forest eco-system, improve soil retention, increase wildlife populations, and restore watershed quality; while providing benefits to local ejidatario families by having trees planted on their land.
The oyamel fir and mixed fir-pine forests are being restored with locally collected seed stock and native species. The trees are 15% abies religiosa, 3% pinus ayacahuite, and 82% pinus psuedostrobus.
The trees are planted by the local ejido families themselves, and grown by the La Cruz Habitat Protection Project of Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacan, Mexico. When planted, seedlings are 12 - 15 months old and 12 - 15 inches high. They are grown at Hacienda La Cruz and transported 150 miles to be planted in the rainy summer months of June and July when survival rates are 80%, (which is considered excellent, and higher than most US reforestation efforts). The ejidos replace trees that have died, with school children and their parents learning reforestation practices and planting trees where there are gaps in the forest canopy. Because of excellent growing conditions, the trees grow very quickly and should reach mature size in 15 years.
It would take at least 15 years to reforest all previously deforested lands in El Rosario. This time period could be shortened if more funding were available to increase production of seedlings.
"From a silvicultural perspective this project is important. According to a recent article in Mexico Newspaper PAIS, Mexico is among the countries of the world that have the most significant deforestation. Providing funding to a reforestation project that has demonstrated success, provides for maintenance and restoration of habitat for the Monarch Butterfly, a migratory species, in addition to countless other ecosystem and social benefits, is money well spent."
"This reforestation project works because there is contact and a relationship of trust and credibility between Jose Luis Alvarez and the people the La Cruz Project serves in the ejidos. Quality seedlings are provided on time and survive when planted; the people have been shown how to plant, and taught the benefits of planting. The ejidatarios that receive trees care and have a strong desire to make it work. The climate is good for growing trees and the area was previously forested and is therefore, suitable for reforestation. Additionally, there is a mutual benefit to the ecosystem and the people. All these factors work in combination to make this project a success."
For more information:
The American Chestnut Foundation's Program for Breeding Blight-Resistant Chestnut
The American chestnut tree used to grow in the Appalachian mountains from Maine to Georgia, west to Mississippi, Indiana, Ohio and Ontario, Canada. In those regions, it comprised about 25% of the large forest trees. Tragically, the large trees were destroyed by a deadly disease known as chestnut blight, so that only small sprouts are able to persist in the forest today. The American Chestnut Foundation is trying to breed American chestnut trees for resistance to the blight disease, so that they might be grown again in the mountains to provide a reliable source of nuts for wildlife and to provide nuts and timber for people.
The primary approach the Foundation is using is to introduce the blight resistance of the Chinese chestnut tree into the American chestnut tree. The only characteristic we want from the Chinese tree is its blight resistance, so we are using the backcross method to dilute out the undesirable characteristics of the Chinese parent in hybrids. The backcross method entails crossing the two trees to obtain a tree which is 1/2 American, 1/2 Chinese. This first hybrid is then backcrossed to American chestnut to obtain a tree which is 3/4 American, 1/4 Chinese, on average. First backcrosses which are blight resistant are then backcrossed again to American chestnut, to obtain trees which are 7/8 American, 1/8 Chinese. A third cycle of selecting and backcrossing produces trees which are 15/16 American, 1/16 Chinese. Plant breeders have found that third backcrosses are indistinguishable from the recurrent parent, in this case American chestnut. A final step is to intercross third backcrosses with each other to produce trees which have a chance of inheriting the genes for blight resistance from both parents; they will breed true for those genes, and will serve as the mother trees to produce nuts for reforestation.
Among our most advanced crosses are about 4800 15/16-American chestnuttrees growing at our farms in Meadowview. These are derived from about 2700 7/8-American chestnut trees also at our farms. The parents of the 15/16-American trees were selected from amongst the 7/8-American trees for moderate levels of blight resistance, comparable to or better than that found in the first hybrid between Chinese and American chestnut. In addition we selected for American chestnut traits, such as a columnar growth habit and non-hairy leaves and twigs. We screen trees for blight resistance by inoculating them with the blight fungus, giving them the disease, and measuring the size of the disease lesions, picking the trees with the smallest lesions. We grow such large numbers of backcross trees in order to avoid inbreeding and to preserve genetic diversity in the blight-resistant trees; one cannot restore the species with only a few trees. Additionally, we are working with more than one source of blight resistance, in order to minimize the possibility that the blight fungus will be able to evolve in the future to overcome our blight resistance.
The prospects for success in our backcross breeding program are bright if only a few genes control blight resistance. However, if numerous genes are needed to confer resistance, then some of these will either be lost during backcrossing so that we will not have enough resistance or else so many associated Chinese chestnut traits will be retained that the trees will not resemble American chestnut. To determine whether the backcross procedure would work with chestnut, we planted large numbers of 1/2-American second hybrids and 3/4-American second hybrids in 1991. The 1/2-American second hybrids were produced by crossing two 1/2-American first hybrids while the 3/4-American hybrids were produced by crossing two 3/4-American first backcrosses. The offspring were tested for blight resistance in 1993, and about one-sixteenth to one-sixty-fourth were highly blight resistant. This result suggests that two to three genes confer blight resistance on Chinese chestnut, and that we should be able to backcross these genes into American chestnut. These trees have been genetically mapped using molecular biological techniques, as well as morphological and enzymatic techniques. The mapping helped confirm the general results from the resistance test. In 1999, we tested 7/8-American second hybrids, extending these results to the next generation of backcrossing.
We expect to begin releasing third intercrosses from 15/16-American third backcrosses beginning around 2006. After these trees have grown for 50 years in the forest, our children will be able to see whether we succeeded in producing trees that grow like the American chestnut tree of old.