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Flowering oaks: a single tree may produce up to one trillion (1012) pollen grains per years which may distribute over large areas. © Schüler

Trees stand still, but their genes don’t : Genetics of & within forests

A lecture with Silvio Schüler

Trees are sessile and the longest-living organisms on earth. Within their lifetime they have to face a wide variation of environmental conditions and changes without having the possibility to move to other more favorable habitats. However, during reproduction their pollen and seeds are being dispersed from few meters up to several hundreds of kilometers. In these phases, trees are able to colonize new areas and to spread their genes over large landscapes and thus, counteract the human view of peaceful and unchanging ecosystems. Besides spatial movements, tree populations undergo continuous changes of their genetic composition. Such changes are driven by natural selection, i.e. local adaptation and random processes. To differentiate between random effects and local adaptations requires long-term field-experiments, but is urgently required for understanding the consequences of ongoing climate change and for developing strategies to adapt forests to the uncertain future.

Silvio Schüler studied biology with a focus in ecology and matematical biology at the University of Jena. He did his PhD at the University of Hamburg on the topic of ‘Pollen-mediated gene flow of trees in the temperate zone’. He has been a researcher at the Institute of Forest genetics at the Thünen Institute. From 2005 until 2016 he directed the department of Provenance reserach and the national forest seed laboratory at the BFW in Vienna. Since 2017 he is the director of the Forest Growth and Silviculture Institute at the BFW. He coordinates many national and international research projects such as a cooperation with the University of British Columbia or the INTERREG-Cooperation SUSTREE with Central European countries.

Fact Box

Trees stand still, but their genes don’t : Genetics of & within forests
March 07, 2017, 16:00h
Hohenstaufengasse 9