In 2010, the Botanic Garden of the University of Fribourg (BGF, Switzerland), in collaboration with the Natural History Museum Fribourg (NHMF, Switzerland) and Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI, United Kingdom), initiated an interdisciplinary project to undertake the scientific review and coordinated conservation actions on relict, rare and threatened woody species, with a main focus on the relict tree genus Zelkova (Ulmaceae). Further research partners joined Project Zelkova during the past years (see under Partners) forming today an international network of ca. 20 institutions from ca. 10 countries worldwide.
Xiaolong Mountain National Nature Reserve is located in the western part of the Qinling Mountains (Gansu province in Central China). In August 2017, an expedition took place, in order to explore the Pterocarya forests of this area. It was organized and coordinated by Yi-Gang Song, our PhD student at the University of Fribourg and at the Shanghai Chenshan Botanical Garden. Vast virgin forests with large pure Pterocarya hupehensis stands, have been found and studied during the expedition. Additionally, two further Pterocarya species (P. macroptera and P. stenoptera) have been observed in this area, mainly along rivers.
Between the 26th and 30th of June 2017 a workshop organized by our Zelkova-team took place in Switzerland, gathering the international partners and members of our research and conservation networks of Pterocarya and Zelkova. At the end of the meeting a symposium entitled “Mediterranean meets Eastern Asia – international and interdisciplinary cooperation in research and conservation of relict trees” took place at the Botanic Garden of the University of Fribourg in collaboration with the Natural History Museum Fribourg (NHMF). Invited speakers from Switzerland, Italy, Poland, China, Vietnam and Japan presented their research projects and conservation actions carried out in different countries and regions of Europe and Asia.
Vietnam is one of the main centers of species and genera diversity of the Juglandaceae family, with minimum 10 species representing 6 genera. In April 2017 our Zelkova-team organized a scientific expedition to Vietnam in order to explore and collect iconographic material of Juglandaceae of this fascinating country as well as to officially sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) and the Vietnam National University of Forestry (VNUF).
The eastern and western coasts of the United States have played a particularly important role as climatic refugia for plants during cold phases throughout the Cenozoic. Nowadays, these regions share some of the rarest relict trees with Asia and the Caucasus (e.g. Gleditsia, Liquidambar, Castanea). The United States are also very important for the Juglandaceae family, with approximately 11 species of Carya distributed along the East Coast and 6 species of Juglans along the West Coast. Thus, it became essential for the Zelkova-Team to enhance the general knowledge and understanding of relict trees and in particular of members of the Juglandaceae family coming from the New World. Therefore, an expedition was organized in the USA in October 2016 with the great help and collaboration of the Arnold Arboretum of the Harvard University.
Understanding the ecology of a species requires expeditions to its country of origin and visiting its wild populations. However, field explorations are often cost- and time-consuming, especially when lacking a solid background on the species that we want to study. The Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh (UK) offers a unique alternative and allows studying different species of the genus Pterocarya found in its ex-situ collections. 2016 we have visited the garden twice and been able to observe the most important criteria of differentiation between the species (especially terminal buds, leaflet and nuts) and bring back numerous pictures and knowledge, which will be very helpful for future expeditions in wild populations of Pterocarya in Asia. We would like to thank warmly Peter Brownless of the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh for his precious help and advice.
Project Zelkova addresses five main objectives
- Basic and applied research on relict, rare and/or threatened woody species (biogeography, conservation biology, phylogeny, phylogeography, population genetics, population structure, dendrochronology, etc.).
- Conservation actions (in situ and ex situ conservation), action plans and conservation status assessments.
- Capacity building (teaching, internships, exchange of students and young scientists, etc.).
- Public awareness and outreach (exhibitions, books, workshops, etc.).
- Iconographic collections (scientific photography, scientific drawings, etc.)
PTEROCARYA & JUGLANDACEAE
Conservation biogeography of Pterocarya & Juglandaceae
Relict and threatened woody species of Azerbaijan
Relict trees of China, Taiwan, Vietnam, South Korea and Japan