Log in   •   Sign up   •   Subscribe  feed icon

Rainforest Tree Factories Could Eliminate Rainforest Destruction

A South Carolina company is hard at work on a strategy that would mean not a single additional rainforest tree will have to be cut down.

Currently, industries are cutting down the rainforest at an alarming rate of 100,000 acres per day. Besides all the trees lost, experts estimate that 100 species are lost every day, as well. Industries mainly use the timber for wood, paper, and biofuel. However, at this rate, the rainforests won't last long. Experts estimate that, if the current trend continues, there will be no rainforest left by 2050.

That means that half the world's species of plants and animals will be left homeless, and likely die. For humans, it means finding another way to get 25% of the pharmaceuticals we use to cure diseases, and never finding possible medicines to treat many more diseases.

But ArborGen, a biotech company in Charleston, hopes that if it acts quickly enough, it may be able to stop the destruction. By creating genetically modified, quick-growing tree plantations, the researchers hope that their cheaper trees may be able to lure industries away from rainforest timber.

Soon, ArborGen hopes to develop a strain of similar trees that can be mass-produced on just 5 percent of the land currently required for the same amount of wood.

The company has found several genes from different plant species that can produce trees that grow quickly, have high stress tolerance, and have a low amount of lignin - the material that must be chemically removed to make paper. They're also trying to save several species from becoming entirely extinct.

It won't be quick or easy, though, since it will take time to grow and test the trees, and money for the technology to test and identify the best genes. One way to combat these challenges is by developing robots to autonomously transplant and evaluate the seedlings in fully automated "tree factories."

Hopefully, they won't be too late.

Via: Popular Science

Lisa Zyga
Science Blogger
InventorSpot.com

Comments
Jan 14, 2008
by Gloria Campos
Gloria Campos's picture

Hmmmm

Could this backfire?

Jan 30, 2008
by ambulocetus (not verified)

Unlikely

Don't be afraid of science. It's the only thing that can save us.

Feb 10, 2008
by Anonymous (not verified)

Angry Trees Fight Back

Genetically modified trees present a variety of frightening problems; however, when looking at these unpleasant possibilities, we have to always weigh them against the certainty of the consequences of our present course of action.

Which is worse -- with no rainforests left to consume in 2050, we are now faced with an even more dramatic shortage of available trees, as well as the prodigious loss of the variety of natural life on earth; or freaky mutant plants that grow out of control at an alarming rate and quickly cover the earth, somewhat like the red growth in War of the Worlds?

More pressing than any party-game-type questions is the reality of who gets to answer them for the whole human race. If there were in fact factories mass producing lumber for human consumption, would protecting the rainforest become an enforcable mandate? Or would it simply not be cost effective anymore to knock down hundreds of acres of wildlife, when compared to the cost of genetically improved product of said tree factories?

Nov 4, 2008
by Anonymous

rainforest Destruction

I love the rainforests. I hope we can save them in time

Nov 4, 2008
by Anonymous

math

Algegebra is getting really hard