June 28, 2022
Vancouver, BC — Increasingly severe heat and drought are weakening the health of BC’s forests and killing trees. The growing season for trees is expanding, increasing exposure to frost as well as drought. This change results in significant damage, causing plantation reforestation to fail and decreasing the value of the harvested timber. One solution is to plant more resilient trees, however, identifying which tree species are resilient enough is a challenge.
A new Genome BC-funded project will tackle this problem by using drones equipped with advanced remote sensing technologies to rapidly assess the responses of trees to climatic extremes. This will enable reforestation programs to screen for trees that can cope with climate warming, droughts and frost risk.
“Capturing data more quickly will increase our ability to link tree responses with their genomic profiles. This will help the forest sector respond to climate change more swiftly in the future,” said Dr. Miriam Isaac-Renton, a Researcher in Quantitative Forest Genetics at the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre, Natural Resources Canada and one of the project Co-Leads, along with Dr. Nicholas Coops, Canada Research Chair in Remote Sensing (I) and Head pro tem, Department of Forest Resources Management at The University of British Columbia.
The project focuses on Douglas fir and western redcedar — two iconic co-occurring conifers with contrasting physiological behaviours and ecological roles in BC’s temperate rainforest ecosystems. However, the tools being used can be easily applied to other tree species. With 250-300 million seedlings planted every year in BC, the opportunity to scale up the use of remote sensing technologies would substantially benefit major tree planting initiatives and enable reforestation scientists to quickly address new forest health concerns as they emerge. These technologies can help our forests provide critical ecological, carbon cycling and economic benefits while also supporting social and cultural values.
“Our ongoing investments in the forest sector will ensure that BC’s forests continue to thrive,” says Dr. Federica Di Palma, Chief Scientific Officer and Vice President, Research and Innovation at Genome BC. “This is an innovative example of how multidisciplinary research can be a powerful tool to protect the future of BC’s forests.”
This work was funded through Genome BC’s GeneSolve program which seeks to foster applied and translational research by connecting the producers of genomics driven technologies with its end-users or consumers in BC’s Health, Agrifood and Natural Resources sectors.
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