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© Bernd Degen
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Institute of

FG Forest Genetics

Species and origin identification

This research area is concerned with the development and use of primarily genetic methods to identify the species and geographic origin of tree species and associated organisms that occur in forests. Reproduction within species boundaries leads to the emergence of genetic differences between different species. We use these genetic differences to develop genetic markers for species identification. Within species, spatially restricted gene flow, selection along environmental gradients, extinction and recolonization events, hybridization with related species at different intensities, and also the transfer of reproductive material by humans lead to the emergence of spatial patterns of genetic variation. These spatial patterns can then be used to elucidate the geographic origin of questionable material.

The main application of our work is wood species and wood origin identification. Here we cover the genetic part of the Thünen Center of Competence in Wood Origins. For various tree species of the temperate and boreal zone as well as tropical tree species, we have meanwhile developed reference data for origin identification and species differentiation and routinely use them for testing assignments from private companies and authorities. For the past three years, we have also been testing the use of stable isotopes for provenance identification in collaboration with the Thünen Institute of Agricultural Climate Protection.

Another area of application is the tracing of the geographical origin of forest reproductive material and the identification of non-autochthonous material. Future areas of activity arise in the use of metabarcoding approaches for simultaneous identification of different species in mixed samples e.g. in wood composites, in the identification of insects in forests and other forest-associated organisms.

Genetic species identification methods will play an important role in future forest biodiversity monitoring activities. For this purpose, we are developing our methods step by step.

Cooperations with other projects

Selected Publications

Degen B, Yanbaev YA, Mader M, Ianbaev R, Bakhtina S, Schröder H, Blanc-Jolivet C (2021) Impact of gene flow and introgression on the range wide genetic structure of Quercus robur (L.) in Europe. Forests 12:1425, DOI:10.3390/f12101425

Schröder H, Nosenko T, Ghirardo A, Fladung M, Schnitzler JP, Kersten B (2021) Oaks as beacons of hope for threatened mixed forests in Central Europe. Front For Glob Change 4:670797, DOI:10.3389/ffgc.2021.670797

Akhmetzyanov L, Copini P, Sass-Klaassen U, Schröder H, de Groot GA, Laros I, Daly A (2020) DNA of centuries-old timber can reveal its origin. Sci Rep 10:20316, DOI:10.1038/s41598-020-77387-2

Braga WB, Deklerck V, Espinoza E, Groening M, Koch G, Monteiro Pastore TC, Ramananantoandro T, Schröder H, Watkinson C, Wiedenhoeft AC, van Brusselen J, Bolanos J, Schmitz N (2020) Scientific methods for taxonomic and origin identification of timber [online]. GTTN (Global Timber Tracking Network), 6 p. DOI:10.13140/RG.2.2.28416.46087

Finch KN, Cronn R, Ayala Richter MC, Blanc-Jolivet C, Correa Guerrero MC, De Stefano Beltrán L, Garcia-Davila CR, Honorio Coronado EN, Palacios-Ramos S, Paredes-Villanueva K, Jones FA (2020) Predicting the geographic origin of Spanish Cedar (Cedrela odorata L.) based on DNA variation. Conserv Genet 21:625-639, DOI:10.1007/s10592-020-01282-6

Honorio Coronado EN, Blanc-Jolivet C, Mader M, Garcia-Davila CR, Aldana Gomero D, del Castillo Torres D, Flores Llampazo G, Hidalgo Pizango G, Sebbenn AM, Meyer-Sand BRV, Paredes-Villanueva K, Tysklind N, Troispoux V, Massot M, Carvalho C, de Lima HC, Cardoso D, Degen B (2020) SNP markers as a successful molecular tool for assessing species identity and geographic origin of trees in the economically important South American legume genus Dipteryx. J Heredity 111(4):346-356, DOI:10.1093/jhered/esaa011

Mader M, Schröder H, Schott T, Schöning-Stierand K, Leite Montalvao AP, Liesebach H, Liesebach M, Fussi B, Kersten B (2020) Mitochondrial genome of Fagus sylvatica L. as a source for taxonomic marker development in the Fagales. Plants (9):1274, DOI:10.3390/plants9101274

Schmitz N, Beeckman H, Blanc-Jolivet C, Boeschoten L, Braga JWB, Cabezas JA, Chaix G, Crameri S, Degen B, Deklerck V, Dormontt EE, Espinoza E, Gasson P, Haag V, Helmling S, Horacek M, Koch G, Lancaster C, Olbrich A, Zemke V, et al (2020) Overview of current practices in data analysis for wood identification: A guide for the different timber tracking methods. GTTN secretariat, European Forest Institute and Thünen Institute, 141 p. DOI:10.13140/RG.2.2.21518.79689

Müller NA, Kersten B, Fladung M, Schröder H (2019) RNA-seq of eight different poplar clones reveals conserved up-regulation of gene expression in response to insect herbivory. BMC Genomics 20:673, DOI:10.1186/s12864-019-6048-8

Blanc-Jolivet C, Yanbaev YA, Kersten B, Degen B (2018) A set of SNP markers for timber tracking of Larix spp. in Europe and Russia. Forestry 91(5):614-628, DOI:10.1093/forestry/cpy020

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