Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The sustainable management and conservation of Santalum yasi (sandalwood) in Fiji and Tonga: A combined ecological and genetic approach
by Huish, Ryan David, Ph.D., City University of New York, 2009, 210; 3378955
Abstract (Summary)

Valued internationally for the aromatic oil found within its heartwood, Sandalwood (Santalum, Santalaceae) is one of the most heavily exploited groups of plants across its range. While historically, most oil has been harvested from Santalum album in Southeast Asia and India, the decrease of S. album sources has caused a widening gap between supply and demand, which creates profitable market opportunities and increasing harvest pressure for alternative sandalwood oil sources. Santalum yasi, a quality alternative, has been harvested extensively in Fiji and Tonga, yet is vastly under-studied. The absence of basic data on population dynamics and genetic variation for remnant populations remains a major constraint to the sustainable management of this culturally and economically valued resource. This dissertation focuses on the ecological and genetic data and analyses that can aid in developing sustainable management strategies.

Population size-class structure data was collected using transects in the three densest natural populations of Santalum yasi. Population dynamics, current species distribution, and ecological threats were investigated to find that the few remaining wild stands display discontinuous size class structures, are under regenerative stress and that the natural distribution has diminished significantly, even to local extinction in some areas.

Using a nuclear microsatellite analysis, genetic variability within and between populations was investigated. Results suggest that there is no significant genetic variation between populations, but that most of the genetic variation lies within populations. This genetic distribution suggests that there is a significant level of gene flow between and among populations, most likely through human induced dispersal, showing a more panmictic trend than previously supposed. This may provide molecular evidence confirming the Western documentation and traditional oral history of extensive interaction between Fiji and Tonga and their trade of plants and culture.

Based on these dwindling levels of yasi population size and unstructured genetic variation in Fiji and Tonga, further enumerations and resource surveys are not practical to conduct at this time. Rather, forestry and governmental efforts should be focused on promotion of local involvement in assisted natural regeneration of wild stands and preservation of genetic variation through in situ, community-mediated conservation.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Balick, Michael J.
Commitee: Balick, Michael J., Kincaid, Dwight, Little, Damon, Petersen, Glenn, West, Paige
School: City University of New York
Department: Biology
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-B 70/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Plant biology, Ecology, Genetics, Natural Resource Management, Sustainability
Keywords: Community conservation, Plant conservation, Population genetics, Sandalwood, Santalum yasi, Sustainable management
Publication Number: 3378955
ISBN: 978-1-109-44747-7
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