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Division of Forest and Forest Resources

FORGENRES: Management of forest genetic resources under climate change

Photo: Arne Steffenrem, NIBIO/Skogfrøverket
Active Last updated: 10.05.2022
End: dec 2024
Start: jan 2021

Current forest tree gene resource management, with concurrent selective breeding and geneconservation, are long-term endeavors. Hundreds of parents and thousands of offspring are being tested on multiple locations, requiring substantial resources, elaborate logistics, and sustained organizational commitment.

Status Active
Start - end date 01.01.2021 - 31.12.2024
Project manager Arne Steffenrem
Division Division of Forest and Forest Resources
Department Forest Genetics and Regeneration
Total budget 4000000

These efforts are predominantly encapsulated within static boundariesknown as breeding zones. These extensive programs often follow a general recurrent selectionscheme with repeated rounds of breeding, testing, and selection, resulting in cumulativeimprovement (genetic response to selection) delivered through specialized seed productionpopulations known as seed orchards.

In conventional selective breeding programs, controlled pollinations following specific mating designs produce structured pedigrees, which are evaluated inreplicated test sites, a prerequisite for effective genetic evaluation and selection. The "novel"proposed approach removes the static boundaries and rather utilizes dynamic genomic evaluationprotocol across multiple environmental gradients on a landscape. It follows the reasoning by Lstiburek and Steffenrem (Frontiers in Plant Science, 2017) and puts emphasis on developing thegeneral concept into realistic application in forest tree breeding programs in Norway and the CzechRepublic.

The project aims at increased productivity in Norway spruce and Scots pine in Norway and Douglasfir in the Czech Republic while enhancing the genetic diversity of new plantations. This approach will change the game of traditional tree breeding and gene conservation that any trees can be genotyped for selection and phenotyped. Therefore, a larger and more flexible gene pool can be used forselective breeding and conservation.

While being economically feasible, it will also secure sustainable timber production and retain environmental and social benefits. Typical levels of genetic improvement in forest tree breeding range between 10-20% per generation depending on the levels of narrow-sense heritability and the respective selection intensity.

Our approach provides similar gains faster (expected shortening to one-half of the breeding cycle's length) with reduced costs (noartificial crosses, abandonment of full-sib progeny trials). Cumulative genetic response to selection will become available in seed orchards that will be providing economical benefits (through improvedforest reproductive material) in a typical production cycle of 20-30 years.

The adaptive value of the forest reproductive material will enhance noneconomic benefits (environmental and social) due toinduced ecosystem stability and resistance to abiotic and biotic stressors under climate change. It isanticipated that other European forestry companies could benefit from these results with similar gains per generation at reduced production cycle and cost.

In the framework of the in-situ forest tree gene-resource management, the project is focused on addressing the following key objectives. Each objective will be fulfilled by novel methodological development and software solutions validated in the operational tree improvement programs in Norway and the Czech Republic.

1. development and validation of a novel genetic evaluation protocol,

2. economic evaluation utilizing improved selection indices,

3. adoption of spatial seed orchard layouts to accommodate specific constraints in advancedgenerations,

4. development of genetic thinning algorithm promoting random mating and minimizing inbreedingin seed orchards,

5. utilizing stochastic simulation: comparison of the efficiency of alternative tree improvementstrategies.

The project is coordinated by the University of life sciences, Prague