Posts Tagged ‘Climate Change’

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 #20 – The climate’s changing: So should forest management

The climate’s changing: So should forest management


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In Berlin, the capital city of Germany, a comprehensive program of converting pine stands into close-to-nature mixed forest is being implemented, thus making the forest more resilient to future climate change effects, for example. (Photo by IUFRO)

In Berlin, the capital city of Germany, a comprehensive program of converting pine stands into close-to-nature mixed forest is being implemented, thus making the forest more resilient to future climate change effects, for example. (Photo by IUFRO)

As a joke, people used to say: “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute. It’ll change.”

Now they say that about the climate – but they’re a lot more serious.

The rapidly changing climate will precipitate related changes throughout nature. And that includes the world’s forests.

Anticipating climate change impacts on forests and adapting policies and management strategies to mitigate those impacts is critical to maintain the health of those forests and, by extension, of the earth.

Forest management for adaptation to climate change” is the theme of a session being presented at the 24th IUFRO World Congress in Salt Lake City this fall, by Drs. Rodney Keenan of the University of Melbourne, Australia; Carina Keskitalo of Umeå University, Sweden; Kalame Fobissie of the World Wildlife Fund Central Africa, Cameroon; and Guangyu Wang of the University of British Columbia, Canada.

They anticipate that future management plans will have to consider a wider range of possibilities – factoring in such things as increased risk of invasive species; pest outbreaks; fire; storms and other disturbances; matching tree species and populations to changed and changing climates; and planting multipurpose trees (timber, foods, fuel, medicines, etc.) to mitigate the effect on forest-dependent communities, to name just a few.

Capacity building and raising awareness are also vital to ensure that decision makers and forest managers will understand the science and concept of climate change and the impact it will have on forest ecosystems. Training, learning from others’ best practices (several of which, from different parts of the world, will be discussed during this session) and better understanding how management practices can enhance adaptation and mitigation are key, they say.

Looking at the uncertainty of future conditions, the organizers suggest the traditional model where a researcher takes a problem, goes away, does experiments and comes back to the manager with “the answer” won’t work. By the time the researcher has a clear answer, they say, the conditions may be different.

Interactions among policy makers, forest managers, researchers and the community will have to become closer and more intertwined. Rather than operating in relatively independent silos, ongoing relationships and continuing, regular dialogue about the changing nature of conditions, how different values are being affected and what the management actions and alternatives might be, should become the norm.

From their session they hope to engender a discussion on the different approaches being adopted in different forest types in different parts of the world; the different governance systems; the scientific approaches, ecological options, tools and adaptation approaches; and to find out what is, and what is not, working.

And, they add, underlying any successful adaptation strategies anywhere in the world is the political will to make it happen. That means funding the research and planning, and acting to ensure the implementation of adaptation initiatives.

One of the main challenges, the session organizers say, is to become more proactive – moving from a “let’s deal with this when the time comes” mentality to one that says: “This is happening. This is real. Let’s get to work on it.


Also visit IUFRO Working Party 4.04.08 – Adaptation to climate change for more information.


Congress early bird deadline extended to May 7!

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 Working Party 4.04.08 – Adaptation to climate change: http://www.iufro.org/science/divisions/division-4/40000/40400/40408/

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/

Bringing science to the people

How IUFRO’s Special Programme for Development of Capacities (SPDC) contributes to enhancing forest science communication within the framework of a Climate Change Adaptation Program in Bhutan.

Photo by András Darabant, BOKU, Austria

Photo by András Darabant, BOKU, Austria

Would you like to see your forest be wrapped up in plastic?  Well, this is what Bhutanese society will witness due to a research project that aims at simulating drought, which may affect the region’s forests in the future as a result of climate change.  In order to inflict drought stress on mature trees, entire research plots of considerable size have been covered with plastic roofs in about 2 m height above ground level, preventing rain water from reaching the soil and roots of trees.  But would local people show understanding for such a measure and approve of it easily?

This is where forest science communication comes in.  Transforming scientific knowledge and research results into useful information and guidance for policy-making has never been easy, neither at global nor at national and local levels.  Recognising the need for enhancing science-society interactions, the Royal Government of Bhutan has agreed to include science communication and science/policy interfacing work in its newly established Climate Change Adaptation program.

Climate change in the Himalayan forests has been a focal area for the development and adoption of strategies in the Bhutan Government for some time.  These strategies aim to increase the resilience of the Himalayan forests to climate change impacts such as species range shifts, changes in ecosystem services, catastrophic regime shifts and other altered disturbance regimes.  Very steep, erodible terrain and low economic resilience contribute to the threats and future consequences of climate change that Bhutan’s forests and people will be faced with.  Thus, building human capacities and knowledge base is much needed, as this will ensure the sustainability of efforts and inputs.

The Government of Bhutan, through its Renewable Natural Resources Research and Development Center Yusipang, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, and the Austrian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Environment, and Water Management, through the Vienna-based University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, have been collaborating in forest research over the past 15 years.  This successful cooperation has been extended through a comprehensive Climate Change Adaptation program called “Climate change adaptation potentials of forests in Bhutan – Building human capacities and knowledge base (BC-CAP)”.

The Special Programme for Development of Capacities (SPDC) of IUFRO contributes to this program by training Bhutanese forest scientists, Government officials and other relevant stakeholders in the effective dissemination and uptake of scientific knowledge in the field of climate sensitive forestry and land use. The support of IUFRO-SPDC includes two training workshops on science-policy interfacing and science communication.

A first workshop entitled “Working effectively at the interface of forest science and forest policy” was successfully held in Thimpu, Bhutan on October 22-24, 2013.  Forestry officers from the Bhutanese Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, forest department, forest development corporation and NGOs attended the workshop with the objective of gaining knowledge and skills in science-policy interfacing through hands-on exercises, lectures on concepts and methods and presentation of best practices.  The training workshop aimed to improve the understanding of key stakeholders in policy and decision-making and highlighted the important role of scientists in contributing information to these processes.

By applying the knowledge of how to work and effectively communicate at the science-policy interface, the Bhutanese society will be better informed about on-going climate change research and, thus, show greater understanding for the measures taken in the course of the project, including the plastic roofs established in their forests.

For further information on the IUFRO –SPDC training course, please visit: http://www.iufro.org/science/special/spdc/actproj/wsbhutan/