Forest genomics: Advancing climate adaptation, forest health, productivity, and conservation


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Forest ecosystems provide important ecological services and resources, from habitat for biodiversity to the production of environmentally friendly products, and play a key role in the global carbon cycle. Humanity is counting on forests to sequester and store a substantial portion of the anthropogenic carbon dioxide produced globally. However, the unprecedented rate of climate change, deforestation, and accidental importation of invasive insects and diseases are threatening the health and productivity of forests, and their capacity to provide these services. Knowledge of genetic diversity, local adaptation, and genetic control of key traits is required to predict the adaptive capacity of tree populations, inform forest management and conservation decisions, and improve breeding for productive trees that will withstand the challenges of the 21st century. Genomic approaches have well accelerated the generation of knowledge of the genetic and evolutionary underpinnings of nonmodel tree species, and advanced their applications to address these challenges. This special issue of Evolutionary Applications features 14 papers that demonstrate the value of a wide range of genomic approaches that can be used to better understand the biology of forest trees, including species that are widespread and managed for timber production, and others that are threatened or endangered, or serve important ecological roles. We highlight some of the major advances, ranging from understanding the evolution of genomes since the period when gymnosperms separated from angiosperms 300 million years ago to using genomic selection to accelerate breeding for tree health and productivity. We also discuss some of the challenges and future directions for applying genomic tools to address long-standing questions about forest trees.



assisted gene flow, cyberinfrastructure, forest management, genomic selection, hybridization, insect and disease resistance, landscape genomics, nonmodel species, tree breeding