Benguet pine, ipil, 3 other forest tree species put under genetic diversity program to raise survival of planting 1.5B trees, beef up quality wood supply
Dec. 5, 2018
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Five forest tree species—Benguet pine, Bagalunga, Molave, Ipil, and Narra—have been put under “genetic diversity” assessment of the government as part of the goal to plant 1.5 billion trees that sustain long term and help beef up quality wood supply.
The Ecosystems Research & Development Bureau (ERDB) has put this as a priority as a systematic way to ensure foresters will propagate the tree varieties have high survival potential amid rapid changes in climate and the environment.
The “Genetic Improvement of priority Forest Tree Species for Quality Wood Production Project,” (GIFTS-QWP) of ERDB is pursuing further study of the five tree species after successfully assessing the genetic diversity of Rattan Limuran, according to Project Leader Dr. Theresa delos Reyes.
Rattan Limuran is an important industrial species for wood products exported by the country.
For Limuran, Bataan turned out to be the best possible source of planting materials with highest genetic diversity.
ERDB had also initially found that the Ilocos province has the highest potential for tree improvement and breeding for narra based on broad genetic diversity.
“Assessment of genetic variation among and within populations is essential for the success of any tree breeding and selection programs. It holds vast potentials for the preservation of the forest ecosystems in the Philippines” said Dr. Sofio B. Quintana, ERDB Director.
What is the importance of genetic diversity?
With the changing environment and increase in global temperature, some species of forest trees fail to cope up to changes while others (under the same species) succeed in adapting.
By assessing the genetic makeup of forest trees through DNA analysis, differences among similar trees can be distinguished with the aid of molecular tools.
The variation that is observed in the genetic makeup of species is called genetic diversity.
. ”With more genetic variations, it is more likely that some individuals possess alleles (alternative form of genes) that better suit the environment,” according to ERDB authors Karol Josef Lucena, Jordan Abellar and Jorge Cyril Viray.
And because of the success of these individuals, their population will continue for more generations.
Having less genetic diversity leads to uniformity. Such population have individuals less likely to adapt to new environment.
Monoculture (1 crop planted in a large farm area) is beneficial only for growing and harvesting crops short term. In the long run, it will be a problem when a disease or parasites attack the field.
Due to genetic uniformity, every plant is vulnerable.
The same is true for forest trees. Tree domestication tends to decrease genetic variability as limited plants are selected and propagated.
Little genetic variation within a species impedes the process of healthy reproduction as evident by the expression of harmful traits in the offspring resulting from inbreeding (mating of genetically related organisms).
Inbred trees that develop slowly are often deformed. Many die suddenly and inexplicably before reaching maturity. Few inbred trees survive and reproduce in natural forest setting.
With low genetic diversity comes increased susceptibility to disease and increase mortality of the population in environmental disturbances.
In 1890, an epidemic had spread across Panama wiping out hectares of banana production. Being genetically identical, banana plants are susceptible to the fungal disease, providing little to no resistance against the disease.
Such scenario ultimately leads to extinction of the population and of the species.
In order for plant geneticists to tell apart genetic variations, they use segments of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) sequence of the individuals to mine them out despite the limited availability of whole genome sequences from forest trees species.
These segments of DNA are called DNA-based molecular markers which are widely used in studying genetic diversity, as well as for identification of species.
Jordan Abellar, ERDB-based biologist, said after collecting the plant material (leaf, stem, or root), careful optimization of protocols follows wherein the DNA of the material is isolated.
This process is called DNA extraction. The process involves breaking the cell wall and cell membrane (cell lysis), removing the organelles, and destroying the nuclear membrane. After these processes, the “purest” DNA can be extracted.
After obtaning a desirable amount of DNA with superior purity, molecular biologists then subject this DNA to a temperature sensitive process that produces millions of copies of it in a matter of an hour or two.
This copying process is called DNA amplification or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) discovered by Nobel Prize winner Kary Mullis in 1985. It involves a series of heating-cooling-heating the DNA. These temperature changes allow the enzymes and other reagents to copy the target regions (molecular markers) of the DNA.
PCR is an indispensable technique known to be used in medical and clinical laboratory research including forensic science in crime scene investigations. It also holds a potential swing in improving forensic botany for higher productivity and survivability of forest trees species and for the trees to achieve superiority in growth parameters.
To date, Dr. de los Reyes said the diversity of five forest tree species are included in the study Assessment of Genetic Diversity of Priority Forest Tree Species through DNA Analysis of the Genetic Improvement of priority Forest Tree Species for Quality Wood Production (GIFTS-QWP) project.
The species were selected based on the criteria stated in DAO 2010-11 “Revised Regulations Governing Forest Tree Seed and Seedling Production, Collection and Disposition”.
Moreover, transferability of these SSR markers to progenies planted in Progeny Test Plantation of the Progeny Tests Cum Seedling Seed Orchards study is being documented. The genetic diversity of these plantations is also being assessed.
Genetic variation is the basis of evolution and the catalyst for species to adapt to ever changing environment.
“The implementation of efficient measures to conserve the genetic resources of forest tree species in the Philippines can be addressed by having a complete understanding on the patterns of genetic variation within species,” said Quintana.
As the country faces unceasing deforestation and its accompanying loss of genetic resources for its biodiversity, the necessity to study the genetic diversity and molecular characteristics of forest tree resources is very imperative and timely.
ERDB’s pursuit for genetic diversity studies has been supported since the establishment of its Forest Molecular Biology Laboratory.
Its researchers have been harnessing the potential of Random Amplified Polymorphic DNA (RAPD) markers to assess the levels of genetic variations of indigenous forest tree populations.
Because of the limitations presented by RAPD markers, ERDB utilized a new marker system called Simple Sequence Repeats (SSR), said Delos Reyes.
Using these molecular markers, the assessment of Kawayan tinik (Bambusa blumeana Schultes f.) was completed. Results revealed that the Pangasinan population was the most genetically diverse,” said delos Reyes. (Growth Publishing for ERDB) End