Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Decoding the Redwoods– as threats grow their salvation might be in their complex genetic code.

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  • When the three-year project is complete, scientists will have the genetic fingerprints of hundreds of redwoods, a sample large enough to determine which trees have the characteristics to best withstand increased moisture or drought, heat increases or temperature drops. The results will be available as an open online resource, a shared tool for those managing the forests.
….as California’s climate changes to one of extremes and humans continue to harvest, the only coast redwoods on the planet are in peril. The challenge to preserving them is here, in forests like this one — and so, scientists believe, is the key to a solution.
For the first time, scientists are mapping the coast redwood’s genome, a genetic code 12 times larger than that of a human being. By the end of the year, scientists hope to have mapped the complete genome of the coast redwood and of the giant sequoia, a close cousin that also is among the tallest trees in the world, some reaching hundreds of feet high. The genetic code of a single 1,300-year-old redwood from a stand just north of here and of a same-age sequoia will serve as baselines and the first step in better understanding how to make these forests more genetically diverse as a defense against rising man-made threats.
When the three-year project is complete, scientists will have the genetic fingerprints of hundreds of redwoods, a sample large enough to determine which trees have the characteristics to best withstand increased moisture or drought, heat increases or temperature drops. The results will be available as an open online resource, a shared tool for those managing the forests.
“We’re trying to apply basic science to the basic decisions we’re making on the ground,” said Emily Burns, director of science for the century-old nonprofit Save the Redwoods League, which is paying for the $2.6 million project through private donations. “What we see around us is the result of environment and genetics. Until now, we’ve been making decisions based only on environment.”…

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