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Wile E. Peyote

Harvest Ethics

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I don’t want to encourage wild harvesting, but I guess I see this issue with a few more shades of grey. ‘Resist the urge’ feels a bit like ‘just say no’ - my concern is that this type of messaging misses an opportunity to have a compromise type influence on people that won’t or can’t stop wild harvesting, i.e. rather than cutting down trees, collect fallen twigs and phyllodes.
 

I also think leaving conservation solely to ‘professionals’ misses an opportunity for collaboration and discounts the important work of hobbyists and lay people. The divide between community cultivators of courtii and National Parks and Wildlife Service is an example. NPWS are not able to condone this cultivation as it is technically illegal, but they have also (privately) expressed hopes that this illegal conservation offers an additional protection to the wild population. Furthermore, I think these cultivators have greatly advanced propagation techniques that could be of use to NPWS and their conservation efforts in the future. These community efforts could be improved with some kind of database and tracking, alongside more organisation and planning with the involvement of diverse stakeholders, of course. Community contributions could also have a lot to offer in contexts like Loph in Mexico, where there are incredibly limited public resources being contributed to conservation.
 

Again, please don’t interpret me as encouraging wild harvest of anything, I’m just really interested in the murky nuances around these issues.

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Fallen twigs and phyllodes are not live material.

 

NPWS is not run by scientists, and also has an incredibly stretched budget. Again, cultivating ad hoc is unlikely to benefit an endangered species in any tangible way, particularly without any plan to move offspring back into wild habitat. Genetic loss happens rapidly through inbreeding, and cloning is only useful for populations that are already highly inbred, and it's contentious what it really achieves - i.e. it only delays the inevitable. Don't fool yourself, cultivating an endangered species that contains DMT is not saving the species, it's meeting personal desires. Not to say it's inherently wrong, if the seed or cutting has been sourced from cultivated plants, but it's important to recognise the reality of the situation and call a spade a spade. It is also not to say that collaboration and co-management shouldn't be pursued, or worthwhile, but it's the ad hoc approach and use of the "conservation" justification that's problematic with these species. If the cultivation and breeding of an endangered species isn't carefully controlled, with requisite genetic analyses to ensure limited stock is sufficiently outbred, the inevitable inbreeding that will occur will ultimately be detrimental to the species. Conversely, outbreeding depression can occur by pairing the wrong stock.

 

We only need to look at our beloved Trichocereus to see what hobby breeding does to them. Everything is a mutt bred with a mutt, with all kinds of beautiful but significantly weaker mutants cropping up all the time. Put your flowering Acacia courtii into a yard with other flowering Acacia species, and it's not unlikely you'll end up with hybrid seed that's completely unusable for conservation purposes.

 

In the right context 'just say no' is exactly the right approach.

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Isn't delaying the inevitable kind of the point ... of living? 

 

In the case of endangered species like Acacia phlebophylla, it might just be worth trying to establish an artificial colony somewhere other than Mt Buffalo -- there's only one way to know for sure if the onset of rapid hybridisation would eventuate. But even a hybrid of this species would be better than no trace at all of its existence. Owing to climate change, etc., we can't bank on Mt Buffalo always being able to sustain local (micro-endemic) populations of this species. 

 

I doubt that many growers would conceptually reduce A. phlebophylla to its mere alkaloid profile, or monetary value. In any case, I think it's possible to have a mutually beneficial relationship with this species. 

 

 

 

 

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The NPWS senior conservation officer myself and others have been in contact with regarding courtii holds a PhD and has 20+ publications – I think it is safe to say she is a scientist! Perhaps resource limitations were the reason she expressed the view that illegal ex situ courtii offered some conservation benefits.

 

I’m not sure the hybridisation issue has really come to a head with courtii yet, although that is surely a possibility for the future. A vast majority of ex situ courtii has been grown from seed harvested from the in situ population and I estimate there are currently less than 20 ex situ plants that are producing seed. I think a monitoring or cataloguing system would be useful to have in place before seed starts appearing everywhere and things get really messy.

 

If cultivators were interested in becoming licensed this could perform a similar function to cataloguing, as this produces some record of lineage. On that note, if any courtii cultivators are reading this and would like to pursue a growers licence please get in touch. Myself, the NPWS employee in question and the NPWS licensing team are all happy to try and work through this process with you. If we were successful, you would be the first legal distributor in the country! The few cultivators I have approached about this have not shown much interest so far.

 

I agree fyzygy, I think establishing ex situ populations is still a worthwhile endeavour. If the aim is to contribute to conservation, an ability to trace the provenance of your propagation material, either through genetic analysis or simply by keeping track of where your material has come from, is particularly important. If your population sets seed it would be important to share provenance with anyone you give the seed to, as well as information regarding other nearby Acacia and potential hybridisation.

Edited by Wile E. Peyote

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I can see courtii is a possibility to hybridise with obtusifolia in my yard, they are flowering at the same time in close proximity. Courtii trees are podding up at the early stage now, really hoping for viable seeds this year.

I grew out around a hundred tubes of obtuse from my local seed, sourced from the largest possible range of phenotypes I could collect. Only took a few pods from each, and I can say with a lot of certainty that any left are quickly eaten by sulfur crested cockatoos. I replanted more than 50 back into the same area, although more upslope. 

I kept 15 of varying types for my yard, and gave away the others. 

I like to think every little bit helps. I know opinions vary and the road to hell is paved with good intentions. 

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"Seed is best collected from the bush, because seed gathered from plants in a garden may prove to be of hybrid stock. This may occur where a number of acacia species from different localities are growing together in an unnatural association." -- Marion H. Simmons, Growing Acacias (Kangaroo Press, 1987). The trouble is, sometimes an interloping acacia species has become naturalised in a local environment, including areas we might call "the bush." Marion advises: "If collecting from the local bush, select healthy, vigorous plants with plenty of ripening fruit and securely tie a paper bag or old pantyhose over the pods to catch the flying seeds as they mature." She also stresses the importance of labelling, even if species name is unknown, with a view to subsequent identification from phyllode and flower specimens (press them flat between sheets of newspaper). From memory, I think some species -- like A. baileyana -- are more prone to hybridisation than others?

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Acacia phlebophylla has such a small geographic range, I think it would have pretty low genetic diversity anyways. maybe someone has done the work and someone knows. Countii is probably in the same boat, might be a bit better off cos there is more then one population.

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I'm actually with Glaukus on this: 

Quote

I grew out around a hundred tubes of obtuse from my local seed, sourced from the largest possible range of phenotypes I could collect

 

For conservation purposes, it doesn't make sense (to me) to collect only from only the healthiest-looking (to my eye) specimens. For non-conservation purposes, that kind of artificial selection is advisable, perhaps.

Of 20 or so A. phlebophylla seeds that I planted, 9 germinated, 8 of which seedlings I killed inadvertently through my own stupidity. The sole remaining seedling survived only because it was a straggler: being a late bloomer, it happened to miss out on being dosed with a top dressing I hadn't realised contained fertiliser. That whole process took the best part of a year, and I'm back where I started, waiting on sprouts to emerge. Although the 1 seedling that survived, is doing well. Like Glaukus, I plan to populate a certain hillside, though on a smaller scale. Another year or two, and maybe. ... The site I have in mind (not mine, but a friend's) adjoins a bushland reserve. There are plenty of acacia species around there already. 

 

Edited by fyzygy
typo

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