LIFEGENMON – LIFE for European forest genetic monitoring system02/02/17
Forest genetic diversity is crucial for the long-term adaptability of forests, especially when considering the changes in our environment, which are becoming more and more rapid and unpredictable. Within the project LIFEGENMON – LIFE for European forest genetic monitoring system, co-ordinated by the Slovenian Forestry Institute, the system for monitoring forest genetic diversity is being developed and tested. This system shall allow us to modify and adapt potentially harmful changes in forests when detected at the gene level – before they become visible to the human eye.
From laboratory analyses to forest genetic diversity
An integral part of the project are laboratory analyses of the genetic diversity of chosen forest stands. The DNA samples of European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) and silver fir (Abies alba Mill.) trees were obtained from six forest genetic monitoring test plots in Slovenia, Germany and Greece. After delivering the samples to the laboratory, DNA isolation, PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and fragment analysis were conducted. Using the technology of microsatellite makers, the genotype of each sampled tree at the analysed loci was revealed. A laboratory ring test was conducted to ensure that the test results are comparable between laboratories of Aristoteles University of Thessaloniki, ASP Teisendorf (Bavarian Office for Forest Seeding and Planting) and the Slovenian Forestry Institute.
Knowing the ‘genotype’ of each tree on a forest genetic monitoring plot allows researchers to differentiate different trees in analysis, find out their family relationships and genetic structure, assess the frequencies of each allele in the stand, and infer the genetic diversity of the stand. This knowledge can later be used to reveal shifts in genetic diversity in time, passed from the parental population to the offspring, i.e. the future population
of forest trees in the stand.
Each step of the analysis process was thoroughly documented, measured and accounted for – the collected data will form a basis for the Manual for Forest Genetic Monitoring, the main output of the project, which will make forest genetic monitoring possible in each European country, with detail and costs tailored to their need.
A big part of the LIFEGENMON project is the dissemination of its results. Over 4,000 participants in Europe, Africa, North America and Asia have taken part in activities organised or co-organised by LIFEGENMON. Special emphasis has been placed on working with children and their educators – almost 2,000 children and over 200 teachers have received education in the first two years of the project. The already very popular Manual for Learning and Play in the Forest has been published and translated into English.
The project has been presented to the scientific and professional communities on many occasions such as the XIV World Forestry Congress in Durban, South Africa, and at many workshops. The next chance to meet the LIFEGENMON project team will be at the IUFRO 125th Anniversary Congress in September 2017 in Freiburg, Germany, in Session 45 – Forest policy and biodiversity strategy: the relevance of forest genetic resources, within Theme 4: Biodiversity, ecosystem services and biological invasions. In order to bring the project as close to interested audiences as possible, the LIFEGENMON portal and Layman’s report will be released in 2017.
Prof Dr Hojka Kraigher