Genetic scientists to save forests from global climate change

An international research team which includes the researchers from Siberian Federal University has identified the genes responsible for the adaptive potential of loblolly pine (pinus taeda). According to the authors of this research, the obtained results will make it possible to predict the response of forests to climate change, and thus significantly increase the effectiveness of reforestation programs. The work is published in the Journal of Heredity. The reporters of RIA-Nauka wrote about this study.

As experts suppose, over the coming decades, global warming will cause rapid climate change which will greatly complicate any prediction of the ability of plants to adapt to the environment. And so the development of methods for such forecasting is one of the most urgent tasks of modern ecology.

While solving this problem, the international team of scientists was able to clarify the genetic data on the adaptive potential of loblolly pine. The choice fell on this plant because today this species is one of the main sources of wood throughout the world. For example, it ranks second among all forest and agricultural crops after corn in the US economy. The scientists have compared 2.8 million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), marking variability of over 40 thousand genes, with climate and geographic variables, including data on temperature, precipitation, latitude, longitude and altitude.

‘We found proves that SNPs connected to the environment underlie the genetic structure of several adaptive traits, including growth rate, trunk diameter, levels of metabolites and expression of certain genes,’ said one of the project leaders, professor at the University of Göttingen, head of the SibFU Scientific and Educational Centre for Genomic Research, Konstantin Krutovsky.

With the use of an integrative landscape-genomic approach, the researchers identified 611 SNPs whose variability is associated with 56 climatic and geographical variables. In addition, based on the modelling of adaptive variability using 44,317 markers, the researchers predicted the way the range of loblolly pine and its variability in space and time will change with the changing climate.
As the scientists explained, the research will enable developing of effective programs for selection of genotypes adapted to the local environment in a changing climate, and can also be used to create guidelines for adaptive forest management, which will increase the efficiency of reforestation programs.

According to the authors, the methods of comparative genomics make it possible to use the obtained data to study the genetic adaptation of the main coniferous species of Eurasian boreal forests, primarily Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) and Siberian pine (Pínus sibírica). This study is a part of a large interdisciplinary and inter-institutional project “Pinemap”, funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA).

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