Forest preservation work turns to Carolina hemlock

More than two decades ago, forestry researchers at North Carolina State University began the important work of conserving the genetic stock of Mexican and Central American coniferous forests by collecting seeds from stands of trees, and preserving genetic diversity through stockpiles of seeds stored at NC State and conservation plantings grown at other locations around the world.

Known as the Central America and Mexico Coniferous Resources (CAMCORE) Cooperative at its founding in 1980, the conservation and breeding effort is now a truly international program, with 25 participating institutions on four continents.

Supported by the Department of Forestry in NC State's College of Natural Resources, as well as the forest industry and government agencies, the cooperative has more than 2,500 hectares of conservation banks and field trials, and maintains the largest database in the world on tropical and subtropical pines.

Since its founding, CAMCORE has worked with 38 different forest species, and collected seed in nearly 400 locations and from more than 10,000 trees. Now this far-sighted forest conservation effort is paying off at home, as the same researchers work to save the Carolina hemlock from the woody adelgid. The tiny Asian insect, which decimated hemlock forests in the northeastern United States, is now attacking forests in western North Carolina.

The battle has two fronts. NC State entomologists are already finding ways to combat the destructive insect using such natural predators as the Japanese ladybird beetle, which feeds on the adelgid. The foresters' weapons are preservation of hemlock genetic diversity, and the development of improved forest varieties that are resistant to insect infestation.

This fall, CAMCORE researchers will explore the western N.C. mountains to collect seed of Carolina hemlock throughout the range of the species before stands are killed by the adelgid. The project is supported by a U.S. Fores

Contact: Dr. Gary R. Hodge
North Carolina State University

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