Minutes of the 5th International
Toromiro Management Group Meeting
Dept. of Plant Sciences
|18 May 1998: 14:00 - 17:30
19 May 1998: 09:00 - 17:00
The following institutions were represented with their TMG
- Stad Botaniska Trädgården, Göteborg, Sweden;
- University of Reading, England;
- Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, Germany;
- Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, England;
- Muséum National Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France;
- CONAF Corporaçion Nacional Forestal, Isla de Pascua,
A presentation on the genetic studies of Sophora toromiro was
given. The results based on analysis of dried vegetative material
collected from existing trees and herbarium specimen. Molecular
DNA fingerprinting techniques were employed and included RAPD
- There are genetically distinct individuals in S.
toromiro found with eight genetic lines;
- There is greater diversity than expected within the
- No evidence of hybridisation could be identified between S.
toromiro and S. microphylla, but
thought to be a possible risk to occur in the future;
- It is essential to protect existing trees, particularly
the Sudsuki tree and other Chilean trees;
- Melbourne trees are scientifically very important, as
they present more than one genetic line. Their origin is
unknown, but might be possibly early Routledge or
Skottsberg introductions from European collections;
- It was confirmed that the Bonn stock derives from
- Genetic research could not give any indication on the
level of inbreeding depression;
- It was suggested to undergo AFLP fingerprinting to look
at segregation patterns of seedlings raised at Bonn and
Viña del Mar;
- The genetic studies (DNA-fingerprinting) of so far
untested Chilean genotypes ought to be carried out as a
matter of urgency;
- the New Zealand Trees were finally confirmed as true S.
microphylla and are not Toromiros;
- The work has shown that there is sufficient diversity to
enable initiation of a breeding programme by utilising
all identified genotypes;
For a full review on the genetic of Sophora toromiro
please refer to Genetic Management.
- In 1995 a project to reintroduce stock from Göteborg
Botanic Garden to Rapa Nui was formulated. Two batches of
plants were sent out to Easter Island. The consignment
consisted of 170 cuttings from Göteborg and 35 seedlings
from Bonn University Botanic Garden;
Difficulties arose in attempts to follow up planting, as
pest and disease problems occurred during quarantine
period (2 years) on Rapa Nui. The currently high levels
of mortality demonstrated the urgent need for better
horticultural facilities on Rapa Nui.
- The need for skilled horticulturists and better
horticultural facilities on Rapa Nui was recognised.
The growing conditions on Rapa Nui are far from optimal
as high in the nursery humidity sever disease problems.
A thorough investigation in improved protection of trees
from pathogens and nutritional problems should be carried
Current status of S. toromiro on Rapa Nui
- Currently there are 70 plants grown from seed from Viña
del Mar planted in Rano Kau. In addition there are 7
plants at the CONAF nursery from Viña del Mar; Older
stock (2 years) includes a consignment of 12 new plants
from Viña del Mar.
- There are plans to establish mixed communities of trees
and shrubs in Rano Kau crater of semi-natives and exotic
species. This is part of the UNDP funded planting scheme
'Kaho Kaho Hera'.
- The CONAF nursery on Rapa Nui is currently producing 6 -
10,000 other indigenous species and has a capacity of
40,000 nursery stock plants to be grown annually.
- The need for a formal inventory of Toromiro on Rapa Nui
was recognised and should include the recording of
numbers, their origins, locations etc..
- Capacity building ( = training + infrastructure) is
needed of those involved in the project. Emphasis should
be given to the island population in view of better
integration in the project. There is a need for
co-operation and integration with individuals and elders
to increase support for the project.
- The next step in securing of S. toromiro should
take place by establishment populations in agricultural
plots, gardens and semi-natural plantings;
The reason for the research on Easter Island is to complete
our knowledge of vegetation revealed by pollen analysis; in order
to do this we have collected and studied charcoal founds in ovens
and fire places located near ancient dwelling sites and places of
Three ecologically, chronologically and functionally different
dwellings sites were studied:
- A modest dwelling near Hanga Ho'onu in La Pérouse bay;
- The cult village of Orongo on Rano Kau;
- The royal hamlet associated with ahu Akahanga, one of the
main groups of ahu moai;
At these three sites, 200 auger cores down to bedrock were
taken. This enabled us to determine the richest places of
carbonised plant material in most complete stratigraphic
sequences. Twelve test-pits, measuring between 0,6 m2 to 1 m2
were opened. Painstaking excavations, involving sieving of the
sediments, enabled us to collect an abundance of
anthracologically important material. 32961 fragments of wood,
roots, stalks, seeds, and fibres were collected on these 3 sites.
Twenty one 14C datations made it possible to date these sites
between the 14th century and the 18th century.
The botanical identification of 2823 wood charcoals are almost
completed; this study includes all the charcoal fragments
discovered on the earlier stratigraphic levels of the 3 sites.
The samples are small in size and often consist of twigs or small
branches with a diameter of 1 to 2 cm. They often represent fuel
collected around the neighbouring sites and appear not to be
drift wood. The small size and the fragility of these samples has
made it necessary to develop a special technique of developing
slides. It also made it inevitable to use the scanning electron
microscope for a more in-depth study.
Those charcoals collected in the ancient stratigraphic levels
have been dated from the beginning of the 14th century to the mid
17th century. The botanical identification resulted in the
- The presence of trees still growing on the island :
Caesalpinia (major or bonduc ?), Thespesia populnea,
Broussonetia papyrifera, Sapindus saponaria, Triumfetta
- The presence of 2 shrubs and 1 palm tree referred to in
John Flenley palynological studies: Sophora toromiro,
Coprosma sp. and a Palm (Paschalococos disperta
?). The presence of 10 new taxa of which 4 have still to
- Elaeocarpus (cf tonganus ?),
- Myrsine sp.
- Syzygium sp. (or Eugenia cf ramiflora ?)
- Pittosporum sp.
- Alphitonia (cf ziziphoïdes ?)
- Premna sp.
- not identified type 1 (Xylosma sp. ?)
- not identified type 2 (Canthium sp. ?)
- not identified type 3 and type 4
All these trees and shrubs grow in Polynesia, notably in Rapa,
Anderson, Pitcairn, Gambier and Marquesas. The same botanical
diversity appears on the three archaeological sites in relation
to this relatively recent period.
John Flenley's analysis has proven the existence of other
trees and shrubs growing on the island when the Polynesians
arrived. This included the following: Macaranga sp., Acalypha
sp., Trema sp. and one Myrtaceae (Metrosideros sp.
It is worth mentioning that those trees and shrubs discovered
by palynological studies and those revealed by anthracological
studies all belong to a form of mesophile vegetation. A similar
vegetation is still growing today in Rapa or Tahiti in the lower
parts of the valleys and on low altitude slopes.
The statistical study of the proportion of woody and non-woody
fuel shows that the Gramineae (represented by rhizomes, probably
those of Paspalum forsterianum) were more prolific during
the last occupational phase. The use of Gramineae as fuel seems
became increasingly important from a date that could be
determined after 1650.
This finding allows to assume a radical change in the flora of
Vegetation history revision
- The forest on Rapa Nui was more diverse than expected and
persisted longer than previously thought. The persistence
of Toromiro until the 1880's as a cultivated stock means
that the population bottleneck is only 1-2 generations in
length. This is shorter than earlier anticipated and is a
good sign !
- It is assumed that Toromiro grew as an open or forest
under-story tree. Toromiro dislikes humidity and
apparently lacks of any significant height. These are
characteristics that lead to the believe of it being a
forest margin tree.
- The possibility of using the Botanic Garden on Rapa Nui
as a pool for genetic stock diversity with satellite
plantings was discussed. In order to have a more
practical approach in obtaining co-operation in planting
projects it appears that introductions of S. toromiro
should be made on farm plots as opposed to semi-natural
- Importance of establishing founder populations and using
these for seed production;
- Investigation in seed-banking and cryo-preservation
- Reintroduction must be combined with restoration and
development projects to ensure greater success;
Summary 1: Stock management
Proposal of action:
- Founder collections should be secured and ought to hold
all available genotypes at facilities with a proven
ability to cultivate Toromiro: Viña del Mar (as priority
collection with reserve, duplicate collections at Rapa
Nui to be established as soon as possible)
- Phase I plantings to focus upon farm/garden plots, as
reintroduction regarded as high risk;
- Phase II of introduction to concentrate on semi-natural
Summary 2: Horticulture
A discussion followed during which the importance of securing
global collections of S. toromiro was agreed, with
emphasis upon trying to secure a collection at the CONAF BG,
Viña del Mar.
- Greater control of any breeding would be gained at these
sites, as opposed to Rapa Nui where horticultural
capacity does currently not exist.
- The need for financial backing to fund horticultural
training and nursery facilities was highlighted.
It was agreed that transfer of horticultural skills was
essential to ensure success of future projects.
- It was noted that micro-propagation facilities were not
essential to the island as facilities existed elsewhere
in Europe and Chile.
- AC informed the group that there was no need to pursue
genetic fingerprinting work beyond existing stock.
However he did stress the need for females to be equally
represented in any breeding programme. Essential to keep
the number of founder trees as high as possible.
- Cross-pollination should be carried out between
- General agreement for investigation into Leguminosae
pollen collection, storage etc..
- Concerns were expressed over possible quarantine problems
with the movement of pollen over national boarders.
- It was noted that the incorporation of S. toromiro
into plantings of natural and semi-natural species on
farm plots may ensure higher chances of survival.
- MM emphasised the need for a field gene bank and keeping
genetic stock at one site of the island within ease of
access, fencing and irrigation;
- The possibility of using sterile in-vitro plant material
from overseas was discussed as a means of overcoming the
legal problems concerning the import of soils, disease
- BA noted that he was attempting storage of S. toromiro
pollen in liquid nitrogen a few weeks ago. Promised to
feedback results to the group.
- The importance of providing protection in the form of
fencing was discussed. The manner of planting and
location would determine the approach to fencing. It was
agreed that this is a sensitive issue and fencing must be
initiated by the islanders on Rapa Nui;
- The necessity to negotiate and maintain contact with
local farmers re. S. toromiro was expressed.
Summary 3: Funding related issues
- Viña del Mar requires two more members of staff to
undertake to necessary horticultural operations;
- Improvement of nursery facilities and capacity building
for Rapa Nui and Viña del Mar are seen as necessary;
- Rapa Nui - staff / facilities need improvement;
- TMG should not only focus on S. toromiro alone, but a
multi-disciplinary group approach will increase
possibilities of funding. A key issue in generating
funding will be in the field of public education.
- The importance of public awareness on the project and
environmental issues in general was discussed and a
meeting on Rapa Nui to inform the local community on the
objectives of the TMG was suggested.
- Classes at the school on Rapa Nui have been in operation
for the last 3-4 years. The course runs for a year with 1
class a week. It is important to educate the young
children on Rapa Nui, using local resources such as TV
from Chile. Radios are very important means of
communication. There is possibility to use locally
produced videos to broadcast to the island in weekly
Summary 4: Re-introduction issues
The successful establishment of Toromiro on Easter
Island will require activities in the following areas:
- Environmental education;
- Horticultural and conservation capacity building at Viña
del Mar and Easter Island;
- Species management skills for Toromiro and others,
including indigenous cultivars have to be developed;
- Research on role of rhizobia, genetic studies needs to be
Summary 5: Review of TMG structure
- Any activities of the TMG have to take the needs of
Easter Island as a Small Island Development State (SIDS)
into account. The TMG has to look at the development of
management tools for small island biodiversity. The TMG
group represents an already established European network
and is in a better position to get funding from official
- There was general agreement that the currently European
lead group should include more Chilean organisations and
members. This would enable the group to become more
'client oriented. There was general agreement for a
change in TMG structure to establish a parallel group in
Chile. There is an urgent need to find a Chilean
representative to co-ordinate activities in Chile and
- Easter Island is a World Heritage site and the
conservation of the Toromiro should be seen as a
'flagship' component of the overall project.
- There was a recognised need for a co-ordinator of
Biodiversity on Rapa Nui with a representative from CONAF
as obvious candidate.
- There is an urgent need to develop a biodiversity
management plan for Rapa Nui.
- Methods of increasing financial income for related
projects were discussed, with examples already in
operation cited, e.g. guides, the possibility of charging
a fee similar to that in operation on the Galapagos
- The TMG expressed general agreement that the securing of
islanders family support was paramount. This should
precede any decision on exact planting and nursery sites,
policies and approaches.
For further information contact:
The Toromiro Management Group
Conservation Projects Development Unit
Royal Botanic Gardens
Kew, Richmond, Surrey,
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