Magazine article Alternatives Journal

The Forest's Next Move

Magazine article Alternatives Journal

The Forest's Next Move

Article excerpt

THE PARTNERSHIP GROUP for Science and Engineering, composed of members of more than 25 organizations, has been conducting breakfast lectures for parliamentarians since 1998. They call it the Bacon and Eggheads series and they want it to showcase topical Canadian research in a non-partisan forum that allows scientists to present important findings to influential politicians.

At the end of January, Sally Aitken of University of British Columbia presented her research in a talk entitled "Will my forest look good in these genes?" Aitken is a professor of Forest Genetics and NSERC Industrial Research Chair. Her research informs government and industry on forest management policies and genetic conservation strategies in the face of climate change.

In "Evolutionary and plastic responses to climate change in terrestrial plant populations," published this year in Evolutionary Applications, Aitken and her co-authors note considerable alteration in the current flowering times of dozens of plant species in Concord, Massachusetts, compared to the records kept by Henry David Thoreau in the mid-1800s. During the last 150 years or so, the average temperature in this location increased by 2.4[degrees]C and flowering times advanced by an average of seven days.

It's essential to manage and conserve trees because of their importance--both to the forestry industry and for sequestering carbon. However, climate change is occurring too rapidly for forests to adapt through natural selection or migration. "Climate change is resulting in a profound mismatch between tree populations and the environments they inhabit," according to Aitken.

The 250-year-old practice of forestry and tree breeding in North America and Europe has provided a wealth of information on tree genetics from so-called provenance trials. …

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