Workshop Forest Genetics

Opportunities, challenges and limitations of genomics-based technologies in forest tree breeding and forest genetics

7-9 October 2009 

Forest Research Institute (FVA), Freiburg, Germany 

Flyer of the Workshop

Which trees are adapted to future climatic conditions? Which provenances are resistant to abiotic or biotic stresses? Which populations should be major targets of genetic conservation and which genes are responsible for superior growth performance? Researchers and practitioners working in the forestry sector are traditionally concerned with these issues. Climate change has made these issues more than merely interesting: they have become crucial. Today’s forests face unprecedented rapid and progressive changes in their growth conditions. Adapted specialization of local forest trees to local climate conditions creates provenance problems. At the same time, renewable resources are becoming increasingly important to mitigate climate change effects by reducing CO2 emissions. In this framework, people involved in modern forest tree breeding, selection and conservation need to be able to identify those trees with superior wood quality, growth and adaptation which are suitable for growth under conditions that will differ from those found today.

Together, these issues represent one of the fundamental challenges in modern plant sciences - By which mechanisms can plants adapt to changing environmental conditions and what is the relevance of natural variability of certain genes for local adaptation and complex traits? These questions are not well understood, because the technologies required to help answer them are not sufficiently developped yet or because the costs of the technologies are extremely high. Moreover, irrespective of climate change, the forestry sector is interested in increasing the yield of forest areas by improving tree properties such as growth, resistance to pathogens and wood quality.

Today, molecular genetic technologies are flourishing. Questions concerning adaptation, adaptability and principles of complex traits are being studied in many plant species. To date, however, these technologies have not been widely used in forest tree breeding and selection programs. Therefore, it is time to evaluate whether such technologies can be applied successfully in forest tree research in order to

  • optimize technologies to produce biomass and sources of renewable energy;
  • optimize wood quality using molecular genetic technologies;
  • develop molecular marker technology to assess resistance to abiotic stress and to evaluate genetic adaptation of genotypes to climate change;
  • understand evolutionary changes in response to environmental changes
  • conserve genetic diversity (gene-pool conservation) and protect and maintain ecosystem services.

In order to discuss the risks, opportunities and limitations of new technologies in molecular forest genetics and their application to tree breeding, selection and conservation, the FVA Freiburg, the University of Freiburg, Institute of Tree Physiology and EFICENT, Central European regional office of the European Forest Institute are organizing a workshop from 7 to 9 October in Freiburg, Germany. This workshop seeks to reinforce ties between researchers as providers of basic knowledge in forest genetics and genomics, and people working in tree breeding and in forest genetic conservation.

The goal of this workshop is to evaluate the state of the art in forest tree genetics and genomics and to discuss how to apply that information to genomics-based research in tree breeding, selection and conservation.