Saving a last-of-its-kind tree

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Joseph Schwagerl, Guam National Wildlife Refuge refuge manager, Leanne Obra, 36th Civil Engineer Squadron natural resource program manager, and Thomas Spriggs, 36th CES environmental flight chief, discuss future plans for planting the Serianthes Nelsonii saplings.
Joseph Schwagerl, Guam National Wildlife Refuge refuge manager, Leanne Obra, 36th Civil Engineer Squadron natural resource program manager, and Thomas Spriggs, 36th CES environmental flight chief, discuss future plans for planting the Serianthes Nelsonii saplings.

Saving a last-of-its-kind tree

by: Airman 1st Class Amanda Morris, 36th Wing Public Affairs | .
Pacific Air Force | .
published: November 28, 2014

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- The 36th Civil Engineer Squadron partnered with the University of Guam and the Guam National Wildlife Refuge to protect and populate an endangered species of tree at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

The last mature seed-bearing Serianthes Nelsonii tree on Guam is located on Andersen. In order to populate and replace the tree with other trees of the same species, the tree needs to be healthy and sustain long-term viability, something which is a concern.

In 2012, a project began in 2012 where $75,000 was contracted out to increase the understanding of the ecology of Serianthes Nelsonii plants and to develop appropriate conservation measures and recovery actions for the species, said Leanne Obra, 36th CES natural resource program manager.

"My goal is to educate the military and local community about Guam's unique ecosystems and to enhance the continued existence of the unique local flora and fauna for the future generations of Guam," Obra said.

There is currently a contract in place to find more ways to protect the tree. Some concerns include termite damage and the possibility of typhoons.

"Anytime we can be seen protecting a species of concern gives a very positive reflection on our activities from an environmental stewardship perspective," said Thomas Spriggs 36th CES environmental flight chief. "It is very important we show the public that, not only are we conducting our mission, but we are also protecting the environment."

The 36th CES has a contract with the UOG to find ways to protect the Serianthes, and in the process, the partnership was able to successfully germinate trees that populated into mature potted saplings within a year at the GNWR.

It took more than a year and required nutrients and intensive protection from insects and other threats, but the saplings are now six feet tall. The trees were treated with special pesticides and herbicides to prevent weeds from growing and insects from destroying the leaves.

"We were the steward of the plant, because the tree belonged to the Department of Defense. We were especially concerned with the handling of the trees when we turned them over," Spriggs said. "The GNWR has conservation biologists on board that want to preserve these plants as much as we do, and we have a plan in place to make sure they are watered, monitored and that action is taken should a pest come up."

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