Technology

Geneticists have figured out how to save the forest from global climate change

Генетики придумали, как спасти леса от глобальных изменений климата

An international group of scientists, including specialists of the Siberian Federal University (SFU), have identified the genes responsible for the adaptation potential of loblolly pine that will allow to predict the response of forests to climate change. According to the authors of the study, the obtained results will significantly improve the effectiveness of reforestation programs. The paper was published in the Journal of Heredity.

Global warming experts suggest that within the next decades will cause rapid climate change, which makes it difficult to forecast the possibilities of adaptation of plants to environmental conditions. According to experts, the development of methods of forecasting is one of the most important tasks of modern ecology.

To solve this problem, an international team of scientists managed to clarify the genetic data on adaptive potential of loblolly pine. The choice fell on this plant because today this kind of is one of the main sources of wood worldwide. For example, in the U.S. economy, it ranks second among all forestry and agricultural crops after maize.

The scientists compared the 2.8 million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) marker variability more than 40 thousand genes, with climatic and geographic variables, including data on temperature, rainfall, latitude, longitude, and altitude.

“We found evidence that environmentally-related SNP underlie the genetic structure of some adaptive traits, including growth rate, trunk diameter, levels of metabolites and the expression of specific genes” — said one of the study leaders, Professor of the Goettingen University, head of Scientific-educational center for genome studies, University Konstantin Krutovsky.

Using integrative landscape genomic approach, the researchers found 611 SNP variability which is related to 56 the climatic and geographic variables. In addition, based on modeling of adaptive variability for 44 317 markers, the researchers predicted how they will change the habitat of the loblolly pine and its variability in space and time as climate change.

The study, as explained by scientists, will develop an effective programme of plant breeding genotypes adapted to the local environment in a changing climate, and can also be used to create guidelines for adaptive forest management that will enhance the effectiveness of reforestation programs.

As the authors of the study, methods of comparative genomics allow to use the obtained data for studying genetic adaptation of main coniferous species of the boreal forests of Eurasia — in the first place, Scots pine and Siberian stone pine (cedar).

This study is part of a large interdisciplinary and interinstitutional project “Pinemap”, funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. (USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture).

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