Forests cover 30% of the world’s land area, house two thirds of life on earth, and are responsible for 90% of the biomass on dry land. So, the impact of trees on our daily life is enormous. Now, an international consortium − which includes researchers from the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) at Ghent University − has succeeded in deciphering the first tree genome, that of the poplar. Gaining knowledge of the poplar DNA is an important step in the research into ‘tree-specific genes’, which can be used to make trees even better air purifiers, to have them grow more quickly, or to make them easier to process into paper.
The poplar as model organism
One can hardly overstate the importance of trees as providers of clean air and energy, or as raw material for furniture, building materials, and other implements. A great many properties found in trees are not found in other plants − like their abilities to provide large quantities of wood, to synchronize their growth with the seasons, and to adapt themselves to changing environmental conditions. They have these vital properties, because they must be able to survive for many years in the same location.
Sooike Stoops | alfa
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