- Associated Press - Saturday, June 20, 2015

AGANA, Guam (AP) - While Guam’s most endangered tree survived Typhoon Dolphin, other trees that would have helped prevent the decline of another species were destroyed.

Despite typhoon-strength winds, Guam’s most endangered tree weathered Typhoon Dolphin last month, leaving the only known mature specimen on island still standing after the storm passed, the Pacific Daily News reported Sunday.

Serianthes nelsonii, or håyun lågu in Chamorro, is endemic to the Marianas, meaning it is not only a native tree in the region but also is found exclusively on the islands of Guam and Rota, according to a media release from the University of Guam

There are about 50 håyun lågu trees identified on Rota, but it is still undetermined if more thrive there. On Guam, there is only one left standing in Northwest Field on Andersen Air Force Base.

Håyun lågu is also the only plant species listed on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species list, the release states.

Else Demeulenaere, research associate and coordinator of the Guam Plant Extinction Prevention Program at the University of Guam, said the program’s ongoing efforts — in coordination with Dana Lujan, Conservation Resources Chief with Andersen Air Force Base; the Wildlife Refuge; and U.S. Fish & Wildlife — focus on collecting seeds to grow starter plants. They would then outplant the trees in their natural habitat of limestone forests.

During the storm, all of the branches of Guam’s sole håyun lågu fell off the tree, she said. From the flower buds that were on the branches, only two seeds were recovered for future research and repopulation.

“Every seed counts for this tree,” Demeulenaere said. “We were hoping it would have a good flowering season. Seeing the mother tree still standing tall in a typhoon-damaged forest was a relief, but the sad part is that they had many flowers that would have most probably produced much-needed seeds.”

Demeulenaere said there is a possibility the tree could produce more flowers after a traumatic event like Typhoon Dolphin, but, for now, all scientists can do is wait.

The extinction-prevention program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Guam National Wildlife Refuge, U.S. Fish Wildlife Service’s Ecological Services Field Office, and the Guam Department of Agriculture Forestry & Soil Resources Division recently outplanted 36 håyun lågu seedlings in the natural limestone habitat at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Guam National Wildlife Refuge at Ritidian, which reported that none of the seedlings were damaged during the storm.

Through GPEPP and other programs, the University of Guam College of Natural and Applied Sciences continues to sustain and protect Guam’s agriculture and natural resources, the release states.

But while Guam’s rarest tree survived, other trees weren’t so lucky.

UOG Professor Robert Schlub, who’s been researching the ironwood tree for several years, said many of the trees being used for research were destroyed by the typhoon.

Twelve years ago, many of Guam gago or ironwood trees began slowly dying from what later would be called ironwood decline, Schlub said.

Since then he’s being working in the University of Guam Cooperative Extension Services looking for a cure.

Along the way, researchers and tree specialists from around the world have lent their expertise.

One of the approaches Dr. Schlub has taken to reduce the impact of ironwood decline is to identify resistant trees. As a result of funding from the U.S. Forestry Service, ironwood trees from 12 regions, including Guam, were planted on Bernard Watson’s farm in July 2012.

For the past three years, these trees were evaluated for Guam suitability and carefully monitored for signs of decline. It was hoped that over the course of the next few years superior trees could be identified and seeds from these trees could be planted across Guam. Unfortunately, many of the trees were severely damaged by typhoon Dolphin.

“Thirty-nine of our 60 trees in the replicated trial were killed, and 13 of the 19 board row trees,” he said.

As a result of the storm the researchers lost trees from Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Thailand, China, Vietnam, India, Kenya and Vanuatu.

Unfortunately, most of the trees were not mature enough for seed production, Schlub said. If the trees had survived another year, they’d have reached maturity, he added.

Schlub said they’ll have to try to plant more trees and try again.

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