Forest tree species undergo ‘genetic diversity’ assessment

To boost the production and ensure the constant supply of quality wood, five forest tree species—the Benguet pine, bagalunga, molave, ipil and narra—have been placed under “genetic diversity” assessment by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The “Genetic Improvement of Priority Forest Tree Species for Quality Wood Production Project,”  of the Environmental Research Development Bureau, or ERDB, a staff bureau of the DENR, is pursuing further study of the five tree species after successfully assessing the genetic diversity of rattan limuran, Project Leader Dr. Theresa de los Reyes said in a news statement.

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 the 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.

According to the ERDB, with the changing environment and increase in global temperature, some species of forest trees fail to cope with changes while others, under the same species, succeed in adaptation.

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 alternative form of genes that better suit the environment,” ERDB study proponents and authors Karol Josef Lucena, Jordan Abellar and Jorge Cyril Viray added.

Because of the success of these individual species, their population will continue for more generations.

Having less genetic diversity leads to uniformity. Such population has individuals less likely to adapt to new environment.

Monoculture wherein a single crop is planted in a large farm area is beneficial only for growing and harvesting crops on the 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, however.

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 or 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 a natural forest setting.

With low genetic diversity comes increased susceptibility to disease and increase mortality of the population in environmental disturbances.

 

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