Sally Aitken, Andreas Hamann
University of British Columbia, University of Alberta
Research Funding Program:
Genome Canada 2010 Large-Scale Applied Research Project Competition
AdapTree: Adaptive portfolio of reforestation stocks for future climates
Forests provide thousands of jobs and billions of dollars worth of employment income, tax revenue and economic activity to Canadians. In addition, they provide a broad range of ecosystem services including water, recreation, biodiversity and carbon sequestration. All of these benefits depend on healthy forests, but climate change is threatening forest health by causing a mismatch between the natural genetics of tree populations that are adapted to specific climatic areas and the new climates they now face due to climate change.
In BC and Alberta, about 150 million spruce and lodgepole pine trees are planted annually by forest companies and provincial agencies. Typically, foresters collect and use seed locally for this planting. In the past, the resulting seedlings were well-adapted to the locations in which they were planted. However, a rapidly changing climate threatens forest health and productivity and is predicted to result in widespread maladaptation of trees. Evidence for this maladaptation can be seen with higher losses to pests, such as the mountain pine beetle in BC, and aspen and spruce dieback in Alberta over the past decade.
This project is a large-scale effort to apply state-of-the-art genomics and climate-mapping technologies to the problem of matching existing and naturally occurring genetic populations of interior spruce and lodgepole pine with the appropriate climate areas under climate change. Information generated will help the provincial forestry agencies in BC and Alberta structure policy for tree planting to ensure the proper matching of tree seed source with planning environment under climate change. With direction from appropriate, knowledge-based policy, foresters working to replant harvested areas will be able to make informed decisions regarding seed source and thereby improve the long-term health of public forests and in doing so, have an economic impact on the benefits that flow from these forests of up to hundreds of millions of dollars annually.