Project: Identifying seed sources for highly adaptable oak forests in a changing climate

Acronym ACORN (Reference Number: BiodivClim-931)
Duration 01/04/2021 - 31/03/2024
Project Topic Given the pace of climate change, the question is raised whether local gene pools of forest trees will be able to adapt to the changing environmental conditions. Transfer of forest reproductive material (FRM) from arid sites might be needed for improving the capacity of forests to cope with increased drought and higher temperatures. Source populations for such plantations may originate (i) from lower latitudes or (ii) from arid sites within a larger region. However, current guidelines for FRM are strongly focused on local seed sources. Here, we propose the use of genetic and genomic tools in order to identify populations capable to cope with future drought-stress due to climate change. Our study regions are (i) Central Europe (covering Switzerland, Southern Germany and Austria) and (ii) The Eastern Mediterranean region covered by Greece and Turkey. Our study species are the three closely related white oaks Quercus robur, Q. petraea and Q. pubescens which are native to both regions. We raise the questions: (1) whether genes and genomic regions carry specific or shared imprints of adaptation at the regional (within regions) or at the continental scale (across regions); (2) whether we can identify associations between genotype and phenotype at traits involved in drought responses; (3) whether FRM transfer at the regional/continental scale will significantly increase the adaptive capacity of future forests and (4) which strategy of FRM transfer is optimal to increase benefits and decrease risks of such transfers. To answer these questions, we plan to characterize genomic signatures of local adaptation to drought within each region using environmental association analysis (EAA). In addition, we seek to reveal the genes underlying phenotypic traits under selection, applying a genome-wide association analysis (GWAS) between genotype and phenotype in two provenance trials. Based on these results, we will develop an innovative concept for FRM guidelines to the needs resulting from climate change. This concept will take adaptive genetic variation, as revealed by EAA and GWAS, into account. The participation of applied research institutes, which are also responsible for formulation of FRM guidelines, will ensure that all practical and policy-related aspects will be considered from the beginning of the project. Moreover, a wider network of stakeholders and policy makers from all cooperating countries will be involved from the beginning of the project and will be informed about research results and the concept for FRM guidelines in the framework of a workshop in the end of the project.
Project Results
(after finalisation)
ACORN aims to identify oak populations capable to cope with future drought-stress due to climate change. The main objectives of the project are: • To detect signatures of adaptation to drought at the regional and continent-wide scale in the genome of oaks. • To investigate physiological and morphological traits involved in drought tolerance and address their genetic background. • To address whether FRM transfer at the regional/continental scale will significantly increase the adaptive capacity of future forests. • To assess which strategy of FRM transfer is optimal to increase benefits and decrease risks of such transfers.
Website visit project website
Network BiodivERsA3
Call 2019-2020 Joint Call

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
1 Universität für Bodenkultur Wien Coordinator Austria
2 Austrian Institute of Technology Observer Austria
3 Swiss Federal Institute Partner Switzerland
4 Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Partner Greece
5 Forest Research Institute of Baden-Württemberg Partner Germany
6 Middle East Technical University Partner Turkey
7 National Botanical Garden of Turkey/TAGEM Partner Turkey