August 15, 2018
Globally 11 of the last 12 years rank among the 12 warmest since 1850. Greenhouse gas emissions from human activity has led to substantial changes in weather patterns. This temperature increase is being felt around the globe but is greater at higher northern latitudes. These changes will affect ecosystems, the global food supply and ultimately, human health.
Genome BC put out a call for research projects which can help us understand climate change impacts and promote the development of adaptation and mitigation solutions using genomics. Six projects were funded under this round of the Sector Innovation Program. This program often positions project teams for larger, national funding competitions. And, one of these projects builds on past Genome BC-funded work on the mountain pine beetle but is looking at another, related tiny terror – the spruce beetle.
While spruce beetles are an important part of spruce ecosystems throughout Canada the recent spruce beetle outbreak in BC is larger than any previously recorded outbreak in the region and has the potential to alter spruce forests in northern BC at the landscape scale. Mitigating the effects of the current outbreak will reduce pressure on BC’s timber supply and prevent elevated carbon emissions from large numbers of dead and dying mature trees.
Drs. Dezene Huber of the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) and Ward Strong from the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations & Rural Development (MFLNRORD) have a plan to mitigate damage in the context of a shifting climate. With a team that includes colleagues from the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the Canadian Forest Service, they are studying genetic functions to identify traits for breeding a more pest-resistant spruce forest in the future. The team is also building on their past experience with mountain pine beetle genomics by sequencing and assembling the full spruce beetle with the objective of better understanding how beetle populations differ across the landscape.
In addition to the spruce beetle project the following were also awarded funding:
- Epigenetic adaptations of plants to climate change (Greg Henry, Loren Rieseberg –UBC)
- Testing the conceptual foundations of assisted migration for species facing climate change (Amy Angert, Loren Rieseberg – UBC)
- Adaptive capacities of microbiomes converting waste watergrown microalgae into biomethane (Ryan Ziels, Steve Hallam – UBC)
- Climate change mitigation through algal bioproduction (Stephen Rader- UNBC)
- Transcriptome and metabolite profiling of crop-pest interactions under elevated CO2 (Juli Carrillo, Simone Diego Castellarin – UBC)
“The knowledge gained through these projects will be applied to understand, adapt and mitigate climate change.” said Dr. Catalina Lopez-Correa, Chief Scientific Officer and Vice President, Sectors, at Genome BC. “They also provide tangible evidence of how the day-to-day application of genomics can inform many key economic sectors including forestry and agriculture.”