Scientific Innovation

Canada is home to ten percent of the world’s forests and is a leader in sustainable forest management. Canada’s forests could potentially provide a large volume of renewable biological materials for energy production (i.e. bioenergy) as a realistic means of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. Many factors influence the long-term management and availability of resources from Canada’s conifer forests, and one of the most devastating is the loss of trees due to large-scale disturbances such as the current mountain pine beetle epidemic. The mountain pine beetle has crossed the Rocky Mountains from its large outbreak in British Columbia into Alberta, carrying with it a tree-killing fungus. There is concern that the mountain pine beetle could spread into boreal forests across Canada, putting at risk many national industries, tourism and forest-dependent communities. Research into the biological mechanisms causing bark beetle outbreaks is needed to provide critical information to government and industry in guiding their prevention and mitigation strategies, and more reliably predicting future forest health threats.

Figure: Total Area Affected

Prior to the Tria Project, very little was known about the genomic and molecular mechanisms of the interacting bark beetles, fungi and pine trees. Having spent two years adding genomics resources to the existing foundation of research into beetle, fungal and tree biology, chemical ecology and population genetics, the Tria Project now has a means for examining some of the mountain pine beetle system interactions more closely. Critical information generated at the organismal and population levels is being incorporated into ecological risk models to improve forest resource (feedstock) prediction tools. These improved tools can be used to better predict, analyze and address the challenges of pest outbreaks, including more accurate prediction of feedstock availability from renewable forest inventory for possible industry such as bioenergy production.

A brief overview of project activities can be found here, and we invite you to explore each of our research theme pages for additional details.

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