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.
In April 2016 our Zelkova-team organized a scientific expedition to Costa Rica in order to explore and collect iconographic material of poorly known Juglandaceae of Neotropis. Costa Rica is center of species diversity for two genera of this family: Alfaroa (minimum 4 species) and Oreomunnea (2 species). They are typical elements of mountain forests and are growing often accompanied by some other trees belonging to temperate families and genera (e.g., Quercus, Alnus, etc.)
As part of the Zelkova abelicea conservation project, an ex situ plantation was established in the Levka Ori with the involvement of the Municipality of Platanias, the Forest Directorate of Chania (FDC), the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania (MAICh) and the local Primary school of Skine-Fourne.
Pterocarya tonkinensis has the most southern distribution among the species of the genus - it occurs in riparian forests of Southern China, Laos and Vietnam. An expedition was held in 2015 in order to find and investigate this fascinating tree in Vietnam in collaboration with the Vietnam National University of Forestry in Hanoi.
Quand les arbres nous parlent / Wenn die Bäume sprechen könnten: The conference (in French) was held at the Botanic Garden of the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) on 27th of February 2016. Main subject: Relict trees of Crete (Greece), Georgia (South Caucasus) and Japan.
One of the project activities is to monitor on a yearly basis the vegetation and shoot elongation of Zelkova abelicea within the fenced pilot plots as compared to the situation outside the fenced plots in browsed areas. In several plots, shoot elongation clearly increased, with some shoots measuring over 40 cm already in mid-June.
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