Nutfruit Magazine

The official voice of the INC

22 July, 2020 Country Product Spotlight

The Australian Macadamia Industry’s Unique Contribution to Conservation

The Australian Macadamia Industry’s Unique Contribution to Conservation

With large ongoing plantings of macadamias globally, it is important to remember that every tree had its origin in the Australian rainforest. Australia has a unique responsibility to both the global macadamia industry and consumers as holder of the wild macadamia gene bank. The Australian Macadamia Society (AMS), whose 700 members produce over 85% of Australia’s macadamia harvest, plays a pivotal role in addressing this responsibility.

Denise Bond is an Environmental Scientist with a passion for trees and the synergy of people with trees and forests. She has worked to protect forests through inclusion on the World Heritage List, with villagers in Nepal and Uganda to manage communal forests and with farmers in Australia to integrate trees into farming systems.

The AMS gathered a coalition of organisations and individuals with an interest in conserving wild macadamias to establish an independent Macadamia Conservation Trust, an environmental organisation dedicated to the support and conservation of Australian wild macadamia trees in their native habitat and in all other ways. Coordinated by the Trust, industry members go above and beyond the production of macadamias to find innovative ways to contribute significant resources to macadamia conservation.

Investing in the Future

Wild macadamias are a largely untapped genetic resource for the development of productive, resilient trees and delicious, nutritious nuts –so protecting wild macadamia habitat is an investment in the future of the macadamia industry. Because macadamias are one of the few new food crops in our domestication history, every commercial variety today is no more than two generations distant from its wild ancestors. The rainforest home of wild macadamias is also intrinsically valuable for its species richness and capacity to sequester carbon and protect water-catchments.

This is wild macadamia habitat –idyllic sub-tropical rainforest along a short (350 km) stretch of Australia’s east coast within 50 km of the Pacific Ocean, seldom far from a fresh-water stream. The area is prime real estate so the majority of accessible land has been cleared for farming and housing over the last 180 years. As a result, 80% of wild macadamia habitat has been lost. Although many Australians still think macadamias come from Hawaii,  the Australian macadamia industry is well aware that macadamias are native to Australia and of the importance of preserving the macadamia gene bank. The AMS includes a conservation objective in its constitution: to promote and facilitate the conservation of the wild species of Macadamia.and has led the field in macadamia conservation over the last two decades. Ground-breaking initiatives supported by the AMS include commissioning the first Macadamia Species Recovery Plan and employing conservation project officers to implement the plan. Threatened Species Recovery Plans detail the actions needed for the conservation of threatened native species in Australia. Plans are developed by interested parties and published by the Australian Government in partnership with the relevant State Environment Department. The AMS is the only horticultural industry body to have developed a Threatened Species Recovery Plan.

In 2006, to raise funds for conservation activities, the AMS created a not-for-profit Trust Fund (www.wildmacadamias. authorised to collect tax-deductible donations and collaborate with other partners on conservation projects. 

Addressing the Threats

Threats to wild macadamias are immediate and on-going. The rare Macadamia jansenii made international headlines recently after 50 of the 200 existing trees were burnt in the 2019 wildfires. Too many wild trees now survive in small remnant patches, vulnerable to weed invasion and wildfire. Trees retained for a hundred years on farmland as a source of nuts, can disappear overnight to make way for a housing development. Any one of these trees might contain genes that could rescue or revolutionise the industry, and it is this potential that the AMS wants to protect.

Going Above and Beyond

An exciting industry partnership involves the donation of long-term hosting and management of two wild macadamia arboreta. These will house the largest collection of wild macadamia genetic diversity, in trees that will be able to supply cuttings for restoration of natural habitat as well as samples for genetic research.

Other industry members provide valuable regular sponsorship and, through a partnership between growers and processors, growers are able to donate income from nut-inshell sales directly to the Trust. A list of supporters can be found on the Trust’s website (

The latest initiative to finance macadamia conservation is from one of the industry’s most passionate champions, Ian McConachie who was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2018 International Macadamia Symposium (not to mention a Golden Nut Award from the INC in 1994). Ian has developed one of the most promising commercial varieties of macadamia ever to be released, projected to increase kernel yields by up to 50%. In an action characteristic of their generosity and devotion to the macadamia industry and the species on which it depends, Ian and his wife Jan made a momentous decision to gift Plant Breeder Rights for the new variety to the Macadamia Conservation Trust. Royalties from sales of the new variety, named MCT1 after the Trust, will provide a base of funding to employ conservation specialists, finance recovery actions and leverage additional funds to undertake larger projects such as establishing the wild macadamia arboreta, researching the geographic distribution of genetic diversity and increasing public knowledge and appreciation of macadamias. Anyone interested in contributing to these major initiatives should please contact me directly (

Conservation Is Part of the Sustainability Story

Conservation of Australia’s wild macadamias is part of the Australian macadamia industry’s commitment to sustainability: understanding how macadamias evolved and adapted to their natural habitat helps inform the development of increasingly sustainable farming practices that work with nature rather than against it.
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