Wild macadamias vulnerable to extinction

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 1st June 2010

MacadamiasQueensland’s iconic nut is losing ground in its home state, with new research by the WWF revealing that only around 3000 wild nut trees are still alive in their native habitat.

The research, by WWF Australia and the Spatial Ecology Laboratory at the University of Queensland, found that only around 1000 smooth-shelled and less than 2000 rough-shelled Queensland nut trees remain in Queensland, with only 1.3% and 2.1% respectively growing in protected areas such as national parks and nature reserves.

“The Queensland nut is Australia’s only crop developed from a wild native species and the source of a lucrative $500 million industry,” said Dr Martin Taylor, WWF-Australia Protected Areas Policy Manager.

“But despite its strategic economic value and cultural significance, little is being done to bring its remaining natural habitat into nature reserves.”

Cultivated macadamias – even those grown in Australia – all derive from as few as six wild plants, collected in Australia and bred in Hawaii through the 20th century. Loss of the wild population would narrow the gene pool of the macadamia drastically, leaving worldwide nut production without natural breeding options in the event of pests or disease outbreak.