Vancouver, BC – British Columbia (BC)’s western redcedar (WRC) industry, currently valued at over $1-billion, is facing a decline because of a shift from old growth to second growth forests and climate-driven challenges. Second-growth forests are not nearly as productive or valuable as old growth forests- they produce less timber volume and wood that is less durable for outdoor wood products. In addition, shifting global temperatures make the future stability of forests questionable.
A new research project, announced today by Parliamentary Secretary for Science, Terry Beech, on behalf of the Hon. Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, will use genomic tools to breed and select WRC that has the high-value attributes of old growth trees, is more resistant to pathogens and browsing wildlife, and is better adapted to future climates. This work, funded in part by Genome BC, represents a collaboration between academic research and the ultimate end-user, in this instance the Province of B.C.
“This work will have a direct impact on B.C.’s forest economy,” says Dr. Catalina Lopez-Correa, Chief Scientific Officer and Vice President, Sector Development at Genome BC. “Genomics offers a much deeper understanding of the biology behind desirable traits for WRC, which means that future breeding will be much more efficient and productive.”
Current breeding strategies for WRC use expensive and difficult traditional approaches of measuring tree performance phenotypes in trials, a very slow process through long-term field trials. Dr. Joerg Bohlmann of the University of British Columbia is working in partnership with Dr. John Russell of the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (MFLNRO), to apply genomic selection to reduce the current breeding time by up to 75% (i.e. 40 years versus 10 years). Because the key producers of these trees are actively participating in the project, uptake of the results will be rapid.
“The key economic attribute required for WRC second growth is enhanced wood durability and our objective directly supports research into breeding to produce timber with this quality,” says Dr. Russell, Research Scientist, Forest Genetics, Tree Improvement Branch, MFLNRO. “Our new GAPP project is very timely; genomic selection will greatly reduce the time needed to select for durability, as well as to address other economic traits, including some that are related to climate change.”
This project, Cedar Enhanced Durability and Resistance (CEDaR): Sustainability of Canada’s Western Redcedar Forestry Sector, is valued at $2-million. The collaboration, initiated in 2014, grew from a Genome BC program oriented towards matching academic researchers with end users.
“Today’s significant investment in genomics research allows scientists across Canada to lead the way in this incredible field,” said Helen Burt, UBC interim vice-president, research and international. “Dr. Bohlmann’s work at UBC on the Western red cedar provides industry with valuable insight into a natural resource and strengthens the sustainable management of our forests.”
The larger GAPP project funded through Round 6 of Genome Canada’s Genomic Applications Partnership Program(GAPP). GAPP partners academic researchers with users in the private and public sectors to promote genomics-derived solutions to address challenges or opportunities facing users. The projects are expected to have considerable economic and social impacts in the near term, spurring innovation, commercialization and growth in Canada.
About Genome British Columbia:
Genome British Columbia leads genomics innovation on Canada’s West Coast and facilitates the integration of genomics into society. A recognized catalyst for government and industry, Genome BC invests in research, entrepreneurship and commercialization in life sciences to address challenges in key sectors such as health, forestry, fisheries, aquaculture, agri-food, energy, mining and environment. Genome BC partners with many national and international public and private funding organizations to drive BC’s bioeconomy. In addition to research, entrepreneurship and commercialization programs, Genome BC is committed to fostering an understanding and appreciation of the life sciences among teachers, students and the general public. www.genomebc.ca