Scientific Background

Objectives

The scientific objectives of FRAXIGEN are:
1. to study patterns of gene flow and genetic diversity in three European Fraxinus species, and how these are influenced by variation in reproductive systems.
2. to study how natural ash populations have adapted to their environment, and how anthropogenic selection for productive characters has affected adaptive variation.
3. to provide guidance for governmental, private and public interest groups on the collection, exploitation, and conservation of ash genetic resources.

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Research

The research comprises three conceptually distinct but linked components, organised by Key Topics (KT):

KT1. First, we will develop neutral molecular markers, which will be used to characterise genetic variation across the range of each species, as well as patterns of gene flow within and among populations. They will also be used to study the mating system, itself a major determinant of genetic structure, and to estimate the extent of inbreeding depression. This knowledge is essential for the sustainable management and conservation of Fraxinus species in Europe. CLICK HERE for more info on Key Topic 1


KT2. A second element of FRAXIGEN will include detailed studies of the reproductive biology of the three species, to inform the analysis and interpretation of the molecular results. CLICK HERE for more info on Key Topic 2

III. A third component will estimate the extent and scale of localised adaptation through reciprocal trials established in semi-natural woodland, designed to test traits such as reproductive vigour, seed and seedling survival, ability to compete with other species, and long-term adaptation. Such traits are important in plantings for conservation and ecological restoration objectives. Integrated with these research activities will be the formation of an end-user group in each partner country, to improve communication and uptake of the research results. CLICK HERE for more info on Key Topic 3

Expected Impacts

The project will apply genetic studies to forest management practice and policy by providing guidance for governments, the private sector and public interest groups on the collection, utilization and conservation of the genetic resources of Fraxinus species. The ability to select genetically appropriate seed sources will enhance the robustness, sustainability and conservation value of new woodlands. The principal findings of the project and resulting recommendations and guidelines will be published as a book, aimed at practitioners (forest owners and managers, conservation bodies etc.), to make these outputs available in an accessible and lasting form.


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