Host Pine Trees
Since conifer forests are Canada’s largest renewable source of lignocelluloses, accurate prediction of forest feedstock availability is important. The information generated by the Tria Project for pines will be incorporated into enhanced ecological risk models to enable improved predictions of MPB spread, and estimation of long-term lignocellulosic feedstock quality and supply.
Pine trees (conifers) rely primarily on constitutive and induced oleoresin terpenoid defenses for their protection against insects and insect-associated pathogens. Although these terpenoid defense systems are well characterized in some conifers, much less is known about the genes involved in the terpenoid defences of lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) or jack pine (Pinus banksiana). Relatively little is also known about the molecular genetics and biochemistry of another important defence system, phenolic secondary metabolites. We will use a combination of biochemical genomics and metabolite profiling to identify essential pine defense mechanisms in MPB hosts.
We will also use physiological genomics to assess the impact of environmental factors on the capacity of pines to support stable vs. eruptive populations of MPB. Physiological genomics seeks to explain the function of gene products within an organism in the context of its environment. For example, drought has been shown to affect the susceptibility of trees to beetle attack and subsequent tree mortality. Water limitation influences the nutritional quality of phloem, which could have an impact on digestibility, beetle brood production, over-wintering success, and other characteristics that affect MPB and MPB-associated fungi population dynamics.