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sector_ico_Forestry_trans Forestry

Landscape-level genetic diversity for resilient future forests

  • Project Leaders: Sally Aitken, Nicholas Ukrainetz
  • Institutions: University of British Columbia (UBC)
  • Budget: $348608
  • Program/Competition: GeneSolve
  • Genome Centre(s): Genome British Columbia
  • Fiscal Year: 2021
  • Status: Active

Working forest landscapes in BC are increasingly dominated by young stands planted with genetically selected, faster growing trees grown from seed produced in seed orchards. Tree breeding has increased the productivity of these stands by close to 20%; however, questions remain on the long-term effects of tree breeding and reforestation on genetic diversity. The resilience of stands to climate change, insects and diseases, and the continued production of economic and ecological benefits are dependent on maintaining adequate genetic diversity within stands and across landscapes.

This project will examine consequences of reforestation seed use policy and landscape deployment on landscape-level genetic diversity in reforestation. The team of Prof. Sally Aitken at UBC and Dr. Nicholas Ukrainetz from BC Ministry of Forest Land Natural Resources Operations & Rural Development, with support from Western Forest Products and Mosaic Forest Management, will use a combination of existing and new genomic data as well as simulation modelling approaches to investigate genetic diversity of individual reforestation seedlots, established stands, and forest landscapes.

Building on existing genomic data for two economically and ecologically important conifer species, lodgepole pine and interior spruce, while generating new data for coastal Douglas-fir, the team will first determine levels of diversity in the seed produced for reforestation by seed orchards to genetically fingerprint and analyze orchard seedlots. Next, they will assess genetic diversity of well established, planted stands and compare the results to the original seedlots. Finally, the results will be used in a simulation model to assess the effects of different approaches to reforestation on forest diversity and resiliency across larger areas, now and into the future. Building on the outcomes from past investments from Genome BC and Genome Canada, the results from this project will provide guidance on policies or practices for maintaining forest health, productivity, and economic benefits for the people of BC.