Ecology and Conservation of a Living Fossil: Australia’s Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis)
Imperiled: The Encyclopedia of Conservation: Volume 1-3
The iconic Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis) is a critically endangered Australian conifer and one of the world’s rarest trees with only 46 mature individuals remaining in the wild. The species is regarded as a “living fossil” and was discovered on the brink of extinction following a natural historical decline. While its discovery has enabled crucial intervention for its long-term conservation, it has also created novel threats. Wollemia nobilis is facing extinction in the wild due to its highly restricted distribution, extremely small population size, and ongoing impacts from exotic pathogens, inappropriate fire regimes, unauthorized site visitation, and anthropogenic climate change. A highly successful, collaborative program combining in situ management, ecological research and monitoring with public education and ex situ conservation strategies, such as translocation and commercial cultivation, is enhancing the species’ long-term survival. The extended longevity and slow growth and maturation of wild Wollemi Pine present unique challenges to effective in situ conservation, including the multidecadal timescales required to deliver certain conservation objectives. The continued success of the conservation program depends on strong forward planning, intergenerational commitment and collaboration, and ongoing public support.
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