Friday , October 30 2020

Secrets of '1,000-year-old trees' unlocked – BBC News, BBC News


                                 Gingko leavesImage copyright                 Getty Images                                                      
Image caption                                    Gingko leaves in autumn                             

Scientists have discovered the secret of how the ginkgo tree can live for more than 1, 06 years.

A study found the tree makes protective chemicals that fend off diseases and drought.

And, unlike many other plants, its genes are not programmed to trigger inexorable decline when its youth is over.

The gingko can be found in parks and gardens across the world, but is on the brink of extinction in the wild.

“The secret is maintaining a really healthy defense system and being a species that does not have a pre-determined senescence (aging) program, “said Richard Dixon of the University of North Texas, Denton.

“As gingko trees age, they show no evidence of weakening their ability to defend themselves from stresses.”

                                                                                                      Image copyright                 Getty Images                                                      
Image caption                                    A man walks on fallen leaves under gingko trees as autumn arrives in the Chinese capital, Beijing                             

Gingko biloba (Maidenhair tree)

    A slow growing, ultimately large tree

    Attractive yellow leaves in the autumn

    • The gingko is native to China and the last survivor of a long line of ancient trees, with fossils known from the time of the dinosaurs

      Wild populations are on the brink of extinction due to logging, with wild populations confined to Xitianmu Mountain in Zhejiang, China

      • Listed as endangered in the IUCN red list of threatened species (

          Ginkgo biloba)

            Researchers in the US and China studied gingko trees aged to************************, extracting tree-rings and analyzing cells, bark, leaves and seeds. They found both young and old trees produce protective chemicals to fight off stresses caused by pathogens or drought.

            These include anti-oxidants, anti-microbials and plant hormones that protect against drought and other environmental stressors. Genetic studies showed that genes related to aging did automatically switch on at a certain point in time as in other plants, such as grasses and annuals.

            Thus, while a tree that has lived for centuries might appear dilapidated due to frost damage or lightning strikes, all the processes needed for healthy growth are still functioning.

            Image caption                                    Gingko trees grow widely in gardens, including at RHS Wisley, UK                             

Dr Dixon suspects the picture will be similar in other long-lived trees, such as the giant redwood, which has wood “packed with antimicrobial chemicals”.

“Hopefully our study will encourage others to dig deeper into what appear to be the important features for longevity in gingko and other long -lived trees, “he said.

Commenting on the study, Mark Gush, head of horticultural and environmental science at the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society), said the oldest living tree in the world – a Bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva– is estimated to be more than 4, years old.

“Apart from a consistent supply of food, light and water, the ability to live to such a great age is thought to be linked to slow growth rate, cellular adaptations and relative protection from secondary influences such as pest and disease, climate extremes and catastrophic physical damage, “he said.

Gingko leavesAs the UK embarks on an ambitious tree planting program, understanding the mixture of tree species that will deliver the greatest ecosystem rewards over the long term, and where they should best be planted, is likely to be important important , he added.

The research is published in the journal (PNAS) ****************

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