Australian stinging trees and scientists using shotguns to collect samples

The remaining of Europe’s ancient biodiverse forests need immediate protection. Primary forests constitute only 4% of woods in the continent. According to scientists, most of the European primary forests are in Scandinavia, Finland, and Eastern Europe. Still, local governments often are not aware of their value and do not offer proper protection.

The researchers from Black Rock Forest are using shotguns to collect the leaves from the crowns of high trees. They shoot down the branches which then fall to the ground – ready to be sampled. The scientists study how the trees adapt to climate change and the growing average air temperature. Trees’ communities are “migrating” –moving seeds are growing better in certain places, and so the species change their range. Leaf analysis allows comparing their metabolic activity.

Australian giant stinging trees (Dendrocnide excelsa) grow up to 40 meters high and their leaves are covered with needle-like hair. A sting by one of them causes an intense pain that may last for days. Researchers who examined the toxin that the leaves contain say it latches onto pain-detecting cells of the recipient, locking the afflicted area. Its molecular structure resembles a knot allowing the venom to tangle and repeatedly target pain receptors. The toxin is similar to those used by spiders, scorpions, and cone snails to incapacitate their victims.