Loss of Wild Macadamia Trees Threatens Genetic Diversity

Wild macadamia trees are disappearing from their native habitat. According to an article published in The Guardian, "In a nutshell: how the macadamia became a 'vulnerable' species", Macadamia tetraphylla, a species of tree that produces macadamia nuts is abundant in orchards around the world, but its native habitat is shrinking.

Like rainforests around the world, the rainforests of the Australian states of Queensland and New South Wales are getting cleared for human use. With that loss of habitat is a less visible loss of genetic diversity. Genetic diversity is nature's insurance policy and savings bank, there to help species cope with environmental changes. Without that diversity, the trees are vulnerable to pests, diseases and changes in climate.

Industrial Agriculture Limits Genetic Diversity

Macadamia trees grown in orchards are grafted from trees selected for commercial production, so there is little genetic diversity in those trees. Orchards grown in the macadamia's natural range are overwhelming the natural exchange of genetic information with a single genetic type, so even the few wild trees that remain are getting pollinated with orchard genetics. The loss of genetic diversity will weaken the species and it could die out.

This is a problem with many food plants in the modern era due to the optimization of yields and other properties in response to a global food chain and market expectations. This optimization leads to just a few preferred genomes getting replicated over and over. Botanists around the world are raising the alarm about loss of genetic diversity and the potential consequences to our food supply.

Helping in Small Ways

Tiny Isle has an ongoing commitment to fostering wild nature and counteracting anthropogenic climate change. We are helping in the ways we can, partly by our support for 8 Billion Trees, a global initiative to replant forests using endemic species (unlike certain "reforestation" efforts that are really only planting commercial trees) which expands the Earth's storehouse of genetic diversity. We can all help this effort in small ways by bringing in more diverse food buying habits and supporting local farmers. And of course supporting any local efforts at wild habitat preservation. We at Tiny Isle believe this is critically important to our future.

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