5. Assisted gene flow
As climate change is supposed to result in major environmental changes on a shorter timescale compared to the generation time of tree species, natural adaptation processes of tree populations may not be fast enough to compensate negative consequences on forest functions. To mitigate climate-induced genetic maladaptation, enhancing the frequency of pre-adapted genes by introducing pre-adapted seeds or plants (assisted gene flow; AGF) is discussed as a promising tool to increase forest stability.
Which seed source to use?
Seed transfer guidelines are recommendations for the use of FRM. They are intended to support e.g. forest owners in choosing adequate seed sources for afforestation which can (a) cope with the anticipated climatic changes but (b) also fulfill the manifold expectations of forestry stakeholders. The choice of genetically adapted seed sources is a fundamental step in sustainable forest management and hence seed transfer guidelines have to be based on latest scientific results.
However, the transfer of non-native seed sources has to be made in a cautious way, always considering its potential risk towards natural populations. Each translocation (the successful transfer of non-native FRM) results in a loss of natural genetic structures and can interfere with local adaptation affecting the recipient gene pool, whether positively by enhancing the frequency of pre-adapted genes, or negatively when maladapted genes are immigrating.
ACORN will develop innovative concepts of seed transfer guidelines that, besides climatic and phenotypic information, consider adaptive genetic variation. This approach will focus on provenances that (a) had the best genomic characteristics to match the future climate and (b) showed the best adaptational performance.
To develop an AGF concept based on the results from WP3 and WP4
To use this concept in order to inform seed transfer guidelines and adjusted them to the challenges caused by climate change
To develop a customized, easy-to-use and cost-efficient tool for genotyping of loci involved in drought tolerance
WP coordination: FVA (lead), BOKU (co-lead) and AIT (subcontract with BOKU)