Inventories and significance of the genetic resources of an African mahogany species (Khaya senegalensis (Desr.) A. Juss.) assembled and further developed in Australia.
The forest tree species Khaya senegalensis (Desr.) A. Juss. occurs in a belt across 20 African countries from Senegal-Guinea to Sudan-Uganda where it is a highly important resource. However, it is listed as Vulnerable (IUCN 2015-3). Since introduction in northern Australia around 1959, the species has been planted widely, yielding high-value products. The total area of plantations of the species in Australia exceeds 15,000 ha, mostly planted in the Northern Territory since 2006, and includes substantial areas across 60-70 woodlots and industrial plantations established in north-eastern Queensland since the early-1990s and during 2005-2007 respectively. Collaborative conservation and tree improvement by governments began in the Northern Territory and Queensland in 2001 based on provenance and other trials of the 1960s-1970s. This work has developed a broad base of germplasm in clonal seed orchards, hedge gardens and trials (clone and progeny). Several of the trials were established collaboratively on private land. Since the mid-2000s, commercial growers have introduced large numbers of provenance-bulk and individual-tree seedlots to establish industrial plantations and trials, several of the latter in collaboration with the Queensland Government. Provenance bulks (>140) and families (>400) from 17 African countries are established in Australia, considered the largest genetic base of the species in a single country outside Africa. Recently the annual rate of industrial planting of the species in Australia has declined, and R&D has been suspended by governments and reduced by the private sector. However, new commercial plantings in the Northern Territory and Queensland are proposed. In domesticating a species, the strategic importance of a broad genetic base is well known. The wide range of first- and advanced-generation germplasm of the species established in northern Australia and documented in this paper provides a sound basis for further domestication and industrial plantation and woodlot expansion, when investment conditions are favourable.