Archive for June, 2014

Spotlight #23 – Eucalyptus genome successfully sequenced

Eucalyptus genome successfully sequenced

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Professor Zander Myburg of the University of Pretoria, South Africa, in front of Eucalypt trees. Photo by Photowise.

Professor Zander Myburg of the University of Pretoria, South Africa, in front of Eucalypt trees. Photo by Photowise.

With a result that offers major potential for the forest industry, an international team of researchers has successfully sequenced and analyzed the genome of Eucalyptus grandis.

“Now that we understand which genes determine specific characteristics in these trees, we will be able to breed trees that grow faster, have higher quality wood and use water and land more efficiently,” said the lead investigator on the project, Prof. Zander Myburg of the University of Pretoria, South Africa.

“This will also allow us to breed trees better able to cope with future climate change scenarios. In the future, we may even be able to develop and manage eucalyptus plantations as ‘bio-factories’ to produce specific kinds of sought-after materials and chemicals.”

Current uses for Eucalyptus, in addition to timber, pulp and paper, include eucalyptus oil used for cleaning and as an industrial solvent, as an antiseptic, for deodorizing, and in cough drops, toothpaste and decongestants. It is also an active ingredient in some commercial mosquito repellents. Increasingly Eucalyptus is being looked at for chemical cellulose, used in a wide variety of industrial products from textiles to pharmaceuticals.

Native to Australia, these trees have been introduced worldwide, mainly in tropical and sub-tropical countries – though they can be found along North America’s Pacific coast as far north as British Columbia.

Eucalyptus species and hybrids make up the most widely planted hardwood crop globally (over 20 million ha). Eucalypt plantations are grown in over 90 countries as short rotation (6-9 years) wood fibre crops. Their high productivity means there is less reliance and pressure on natural forests, especially in developing countries, where most eucalyptus plantations are grown, Prof. Myburg added.

This is only the second hardwood tree genome (Populus was the first) to be sequenced.

Prof. Myburg said being able to compare it to other trees such as Populus, willow, spruce and pine will allow us to study the unique biology of these large, long-lived plants that are keystone species for many of the earth’s ecosystems.

“Once we are able to boost the growth and wood properties of Eucalyptus, the same techniques can be applied to other woody plants with potential as biomass feedstock species for the post-petroleum economy,” he said.

What this achievement underlines is “that forest tree research has entered the post-genomics age,” Prof. Myburg added. “We can look toward technology development … (to come up with) solutions for threats like climate change, pests and diseases, and breed trees with enhanced growth and wood properties for a sustainable forest products industry.”

Already many international research teams are using the genome sequence as a reference for gene function studies and as a resource for molecular breeding of eucalyptus trees for enhanced growth, wood formation, disease resistance and abiotic responses to drought, cold and salinity, among other things.

The project was funded by the U.S Department of Energy, Joint Genome Institute (DOE-JGI). An international team of 80 researchers at more than 30 institutions (several of which are IUFRO member organizations) in 18 countries participated in the project. It took them five years to sequence and analyze the 640-million base pair genome.

The findings are available online: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v510/n7505/full/nature13308.html, and also in the June 19 edition of the journal Nature.

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Media Contact

Gerda Wolfrum: +43 1 877 0151 17 or wolfrum(at)iufro.org

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Related Links

The genome of Eucalyptus grandis: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v510/n7505/full/nature13308.html

IUFRO Working Party 2.08.03 – Improvement and culture of eucalypts: http://www.iufro.org/science/divisions/division-2/20000/20800/20803/

IUFRO Working Party 5.06.03 – Utilization of planted eucalypts: http://www.iufro.org/science/divisions/division-5/50000/50600/50603/

IUFRO Spotlights main page, http://www.iufro.org/media/iufro-spotlights/

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Congress Spotlight #22 – Green cities: The benefits of the urban forest

Green cities: The benefits of the urban forest

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Experiencing the floodplain forests of the city of Leipzig, Germany, from the river (photo by Matilda Annerstedt)

Experiencing the floodplain forests of the city of Leipzig, Germany, from the river (photo by Matilda Annerstedt)

The urban forest means different things to different people.

Many of us see only visually pleasing tree-lined streets, or enjoy the coolness afforded by shade trees on hot days.

Those more closely involved with the urban forest see that – and much, much more.

They also see the urban forest in terms of the ecosystem services and values derived from it – reduced energy use of buildings, improved air quality, stream flows, water quality, urban wildlife, human health, climate change (in terms of both mitigation and species composition) and other benefits that are environmental, social and economic.

As an example of the economic value of urban forests, the chief economist for Canada’s Toronto Dominion Bank was interviewed by CBC-TV following last winter’s severe ice storm in Toronto in which many trees were damaged or destroyed. In the interview, he estimated the value of Toronto’s urban forest – more than 10 million trees covering 30% (190 square kilometres) of the city – at about $7 billion to the local economy, saying the trees “represent an important investment in environmental condition, human health and the overall quality of life.”

This fall, at the IUFRO World Forest Congress in Salt Lake City, a session entitled: Urban forest diversity and ecosystem services will focus on species diversity in cities across the globe, the ecosystem services provided by them, how forest composition and species diversity affect those services and values and how the composition and species diversity are changing and will continue to change going forward.

Session coordinators are Dr. David Nowak of the U.S. Forest Service and Wesley Kocher of the International Society of Arboriculture.

Urban forests provide critical services and values to residents and are under threat from various forces, Dr. Nowak says. By understanding local urban forest composition and recognizing the forces of change, management plans can be developed to sustain healthy, functional urban forests for future generations.

The biggest challenge facing urban forests, according to Dr. Nowak, is how municipalities deal with the numerous forces that have and will continue to alter them – exotic insects and diseases, invasive plant species, climate change and urban development.

All of these forces, he says, will alter tree health and species composition and consequently will alter the ecosystem services and values derived from the urban forest.

Limited understanding and awareness of those issues by the urban population, a lack of specific management guidelines on how to minimize the negative impacts of those external forces and limited financial resources are all roadblocks that have to be overcome, says Dr. Nowak.

On the upside, he says, research is being conducted and tools are being developed to assess the structure and value of urban forests, and educational outreach about the forests’ values and the risks that face them is also taking place. Many cities and towns have also begun taking steps to increase species diversity.

At the Congress, the urban forest session will present data on species diversity in cities across the globe, discuss how urban forest composition and species diversity affects various ecosystem services and values and illustrate how and why composition and species diversity are likely to change.

The information out of the session can then be used to help guide future research and policies related to sustaining urban forests and the critical ecosystem services provided by them and to implementing programs and projects that will help achieve those ends.

Find out more about the activities of IUFRO’s Urban Forestry Research Group at: http://www.iufro.org/science/divisions/division-6/60000/60700/

 


See you at the IUFRO 2014 World Congress!
http://iufro2014.com/
Follow IUFRO 2014 on Twitter! Join IUFRO 2014 on Facebook!

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Related Links

IUFRO Research Group 6.07.00 – Urban forestry: http://www.iufro.org/science/divisions/division-6/60000/60700/
IUFRO Spotlight main page, http://www.iufro.org/media/iufro-spotlights/

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IUFRO Spotlight is an initiative of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations. Its aim is to introduce, in a timely fashion, significant findings in forest research from IUFRO officeholders and member organizations to a worldwide network of decision makers, policy makers and researchers.

IUFRO Spotlight issues up to October 2014 will primarily focus on the IUFRO World Congress that will take place on 5-11 October 2014 in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. The topics of individual Congress sessions will be highlighted in order to draw attention to the wide variety of themes that will be addressed at the Congress and their importance on a regional and global scale. Find the IUFRO 2014 World Congress Scientific Program at: http://iufro2014.com/scientific-program/overview/

Congress Spotlight #21 – The forest pharmacy and food store

The forest pharmacy and food store


PDF for download

Forest berries (Petr Kratochvil)

Forest berries (Petr Kratochvil)

Sometimes, they say, you can’t see the forest for the trees.

And one group of sub-plenary session organizers for the upcoming IUFRO World Congress in Salt Lake City might amend that to read: “Sometimes you can’t see the forest for anything but the timber value in the trees.”

The organizers – Hannu Raitio and Tuija Sievänen of the Finnish Forest Research Institute; James Chamberlain of the U.S. Forest Service; and Carsten Smith-Hall of Denmark’s University of Copenhagen, will present a session entitled: The value and challenges of integrating food and medicinal forest products into forest management.

They want to encourage forest managers to include forest-derived foods and medicines, as well as timber, in their planning, policies and practices.

For millennia, forests have been sources of food and medicine ensuring human health and wellbeing, yet they are not fully appreciated and valued for those benefits, the organizers say.

They point to ginseng as one example. First harvested in China for its medicinal value, ginseng has over the years, contributed immeasurable amounts to the world economy and has had significant ecological impacts. In the United States, ginseng has been harvested commercially from eastern hardwood forests since the mid-1700s. Today it contributes more than $27 million annually to the regional economy.

It grows in some of the most bio-diverse temperate hardwood forests in the world. And yet, the forests have not been managed to conserve American ginseng and this plant – a valuable natural resource – that once was widespread throughout the forest, is now limited in its range, they say.

The organizers agree that foresters are very good in terms of doing what they are trained to do.

They point out that foresters can inventory a stand of trees and, with some confidence, estimate the commercial biomass. They can estimate the rate at which forests are growing. They can determine possible sustainable yields of wood products and they can recommend and implement silvicultural treatments and harvesting strategies that deliver maximum economic benefit while minimizing environmental costs.

But, the organizers say, foresters can’t do that for medicinal and-or edible forest products (MEFPs).

We don’t know the true financial or ecological value of MEFPs. And, the organizers say, that’s because MEFPs are considered less valuable than timber. But, they note – again using ginseng as an example – while a pound of cherry wood is worth about US$1.00, the average worth of a pound of ginseng root is about US$430.00.

Through their sub-plenary they aim to provide a forum where forest leadership can learn about the need to expand the forest management paradigm to include medicinal and edible forest products and the plants, people and places that depend on them.

They do see some positive signs of that – emanating primarily from developing countries.

The reason for the developing countries’ leadership, the organizers say, is that MEFPs and other non-timber forest products (NTFPs) are more fully appreciated in those less affluent countries where people live “closer” to the forest and are more dependent on forests for their daily needs.

More affluent countries – where the population does not depend on medicinal and edible forest products on a daily basis – tend to treat MEFPs as “special” rather than treating them in the same way as other managed natural resources.

The forestry community, especially in more developed countries, is fixated on trees, and timber is “the tail that wags the dog”, according to the sub-plenary organizers.


See you at the IUFRO 2014 World Congress!
http://iufro2014.com/
Follow IUFRO 2014 on Twitter! Join IUFRO 2014 on Facebook!

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Related Links

IUFRO Research Group 5.11.00 – Non-wood forest products: http://www.iufro.org/science/divisions/division-5/50000/51100/
IUFRO Division 6 – Social Aspects of Forests and Forestry
: http://www.iufro.org/science/divisions/division-6/
IUFRO Task Force on Forests and Human Health: http://www.iufro.org/science/task-forces/forests-trees-humans/
IUFRO Spotlight main page, http://www.iufro.org/media/iufro-spotlights/

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IUFRO Spotlight is an initiative of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations. Its aim is to introduce, in a timely fashion, significant findings in forest research from IUFRO officeholders and member organizations to a worldwide network of decision makers, policy makers and researchers.

IUFRO Spotlight issues up to October 2014 will primarily focus on the IUFRO World Congress that will take place on 5-11 October 2014 in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. The topics of individual Congress sessions will be highlighted in order to draw attention to the wide variety of themes that will be addressed at the Congress and their importance on a regional and global scale. Find the IUFRO 2014 World Congress Scientific Program at: http://iufro2014.com/scientific-program/overview/