Until now, scientists assumed that the last specimen of a previously very rare oak species died in 2011. But now a research group can refute this assumption. They find a Quercus tardifolia in Big Bend National Park - but it's not doing well either.
Botanists have discovered a specimen of a species of oak tree that is thought to be extinct in Big Bend National Park in the US state of Texas. The 30-foot-tall Quercus tardifolia tree is in poor condition and needs immediate protection, the enthusiastic group of multiple research organizations led by the Morton Arboretum and United States Botanic Garden (USBG) told Eurekalert.org.
The chances of survival for the tree, which was found in May in the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park, are therefore not great: its trunk was damaged by fire and badly infested with a fungus. A drought or another fire could end his life. In view of the climate change in the already often heat-stricken area, this is becoming more likely with each passing year, the researchers explained.
The botanists now hope to find acorns from the specimen and thus be able to breed the species. "This work is critical to saving the biodiversity that the Earth is losing so quickly," Westwood said. "If we ignore the decline in Q. tardifolia and other rare, endangered trees, we could see myriad domino effects with the loss of other life forms in the ecosystems these trees support," she continued. Her research colleague Wesley Knapp described the tree discovery as a second chance that nature only rarely gives. "I doubt we'll get a third. We won't waste it."