Why Sequence The Black Cottonwood Tree?
Forest trees are the dominant life form in many ecosystems and contain more than 90% of the Earth's terrestrial biomass. Forests throughout the world provide such environmental benefits as carbon sequestration, renewable energy supplies, watershed protection, improved air quality, biodiversity, habitat for endangered species, and access to recreational opportunities. Despite the importance of forest trees for natural ecosystems and the world economy, little is known about their biology in comparison with the detailed information available for crop plants and model organisms such as Arabidopsis. As a result, the forest science community has engaged the resources of the JGI to help sequence Populus trichocarpa, the black cottonwood.
Traditional genetic breeding approaches in forestry are limited by the large size, long generation interval, and out-crossing mating system of most trees. Sequence information will enable forest tree biologists to begin large-scale, thorough analyses of genes and other genetic motifs. This will not only shed light on basic science questions but will also lead to improved plant materials for the forest products industry and ultimately allow selection of novel traits that could be used to address questions related to the energy-related mission of the Department of Energy. Populus (poplar) species are used in activities ranging from carbon sequestration research, to free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE) studies, and to the development of fast-growing trees as a renewable bioenergy resource. The sequencing effort will also inform applications of phytoremediation, where trees can be used to remediate hazardous waste sites.
For more information, see the Populus trichocarpa white paper.
Genome Portal site: Populus trichocarpa