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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences

Exploring poplar genetics ahead of climate change

Published: 12 August 2010
Professor Gail Taylor

Identifying key genes will help in our adaptation to warmer temperatures, at the same time offering new ways of curbing carbon footprints.

EVOLTREE is a large EU-funded Network of Excellence, established to analyse the impacts of climate change on forest ecosystems. A better understanding of the evolutionary history of forest trees can help us to predict how they might respond to climate change.

Image from EVOLTREE
Which trees will grow faster?

Forest ecosystem genomics and adaptation was the topical title of this year's conference, held in Madrid. Professor Gail Taylor from the University of Southampton's School of Biological Sciences was curator of one of the primary themes, Phenomics under climate change.

Poplar trees are widely spread across Europe, and their genetic structure has already been extensively studied. This gives us a solid base for asking more questions. Which genes make individual trees grow faster, for speedier production of solid or liquid biofuels? Which genes characterise the poplars now flourishing in arid southern Spain, that could transfer to northern countries as temperatures rise to Mediterranean levels?

In the accompanying audio clip, Professor Taylor explains the importance and impact of exploring and exploiting poplar genes.

One of the uses of poplar trees is for energy purposes. We could co-fire it with coal [in older powerstations], which produces a lower carbon footprint. We now need to identify the genes that can make these trees grow faster.

Professor Gail Taylor - Speaking after EVOLTREE Conference, Madrid 2010

Trees that can survive in a pretty harsh Spanish climate are likely to have a pool of genes which are relevant to drought adaptation [resulting from climate change]

Professor Gail Taylor - Speaking after EVOLTREE Conference, Madrid 2010
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