A Qiaojia five-needled pine in the wild and a label on it. (Photo/Yan Keren)
A Qiaojia five-needled pine in the wild and a label on it. (Photo/Yan Keren)

Critically endangered pine trees increase in number - Yunnan, China

By People’s Daily Online SA Time of article published Sep 15, 2021

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The number of Qiaojia five-needled pines, a national first-class protected plant endemic to Qiaojia county in southwest China’s Yunnan province, has significantly increased, according to a nature reserve in the county.

When the species was first discovered in 1990 in the county, there were only 34 individual plants accounted for in the wild, said the management bureau of the Yunnan Yaoshan National Nature Reserve. It has previously been classified as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.

So far, nearly 7,000 Qiaojia five-needled pines have been artificially cultivated, including 3,000 saplings that have been transplanted to Kunming city and Chuxiong and Dali autonomous prefectures in the province.

The species is characterized by low levels of genetic diversity, vulnerability, and a narrow range of distribution. To better study and protect the species, the county, the nature reserve and the Kunming Institute of Botany affiliated to the Chinese Academy of Sciences have taken various measures, including the collection of the plant’s seeds in the wild, in-situ conservation, ex-situ conservation, and cultivation and transplanting of saplings, to make sure the number of the trees continues to grow sustainably. On Aug. 10, a tree grown at a botanical garden at the Kunming Institute of Botany bore fruits for the first time.

Researchers have also numbered and equipped each wild individual plant of the species with a GPS tracker to monitor their conditions.

They have also collected data including height, tree crown diameter, and diameter at breast height of the species over the years.

“Statistics show that about 70 percent of the artificially cultivated saplings have survived,” said Zhang Tianbi, a researcher at the nature reserve.

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