At a time when trees are felled without a second thought to make way for roads and buildings, the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) has set an example by transplanting 30 fully grown trees on its sprawling campus here.
The space unit decided to find a new home for the trees when the Integrated Structural Test Facility (INSTEF) area was identified for new development. All 30 trees were painstakingly translocated to an open space near the ISRO staff quarters, a VSSC official said. The ‘tree challenge,’ supervised by the horticulture wing under the Civil and Maintenance Group of the space unit, involved 21 mango trees, three fig trees, three neem, and one each of copperpod, ‘mulluvenga’ and devil’s tree.
Transplanting or translocating a tree involves its transportation from a ‘host site’ to a ‘receptor site.’ This is easier said than done as the process involves fully grown trees which can undergo shocks when they are detached from the soil. Problems can range from root injury to infections and lack of moisture and failure to adapt to the new soil conditions.
“Even after transplantation, trees can undergo tremendous stress due to changes in their ability to absorb water due to root loss. Water stress is the primary reason for transplant failure. Root loss also reduces carbohydrate storage, affecting energy available for rapid root regeneration, critical for transplant survival,” VSSC officials said.
Transplantation involves a scientific process of identifying the appropriate tree species, the new location and its preparation and pruning of their crowns to preserve the trees’s capacity to sustain itself and build up reserves, according to the VSSC. With trees now provided a new home, the VSSC is now giving a lot of attention to their post-planting care.
“A transplanted tree needs to be monitored daily for its survival, growth, pests, diseases and other physiological symptoms. It should withstand the tests of nature for at least a year (covering all the three seasons) before we can declare it as surviving or successful,” a VSSC official said. In the process, the space unit also hopes to firm up a standard operating procedure for tree translocation in sandy soil conditions.