Climate change could leave the 1,000-year-old conifers too stressed to seed, but a two-person cone-gathering operation aims to safeguard their survival
Hunched against the wind in Tasmania’s central highlands are the floral relics of the last ice age. Walking among them, armed with a large pole and a cloth bag, is James Wood, the coordinator of the Tasmanian seed bank. It is the first time in five years that Tasmania’s 1,000-year-old conifers have seeded, and he is determined not to miss it.
It is the third week of April. A coronavirus outbreak has occurred in Tasmania’s north-west, causing the premier to close two regional hospitals and place 5,000 health workers and their families in quarantine. And Wood is walking a deserted stretch of the Overland Track, alone but for Justin Dyer, his guide from the Tasmanian Walking Company, in search of stands of pencil pines, or Athrotaxis cupressoides.