AForGeN 2018

Kranjska Gora, Slovenia

Dates: 21-23 June 2018

Location: Ramada resort Kranjska Gora

AForGeN is a network of scientists from Europe and the US who share an interest in the genetic resources of high mountain forests. The aim of the group is an intensive exchange of information and the development of a cross-border research network for the study of adaptation processes in alpine forest ecosystems. Traditionally AForGeN meetings are organized in the high mountain area. In 2018 the meeting was held in the Slovenian Alps, the Kranjska Gora region. Around 40 scientists from 12 countries have participated and presented their latest research on alpine tree species.

Meeting Schedule

June 21, 2018

The scientific session started with the presentation of the geographical-historical characteristics of the Slovenian Alps by Primož Simončič, who also welcomed the participants. The introductive talk was followed by four thematic sessions.

The first entitled Botanics and Hybridization included presentations about Slovenian forestry (Andrej Breznikar et al.), hybrid speciation in Sorbus (Dusan Gömöry et al.) and in Abies species (Filippos Aravanopoulos et al.), as well as aspects of Christmas tree breeding was presented by Ole Kim Hansen.

The second session called Demographic history and Evolution referred to studies on the demographic and evolutionary history of Abies alba in the Pyrenees (Caroline Scotti-Saintagne et al.) as well as of Pinus nigra in the French Alps (Bruno Faddy et al.). Selection and evolutionary potential of high mountain tree species, Abies alba and Fagus sylvatica, were discussed by Marjana Westergren and co-authors.

After the lunch break the third session, Traits and Environment included five presentations on Abies alba as a target species. Reports included environmental drivers of population traits and the fine-scale genetic structure of populations (Enikő Major et al.), drought resistance (Katalin Csilléry), carbon storage and water use efficiency in seedlings presented by Alexandra Glauser and co-authors. Dendroecology and association genetics in natural tree populations was discussed by Katrin Heer and al., while the correlation between phenology and ectomycorrhizal composition was presented by Tine Grebenc and co-authors.

The last session called Transcriptomics included three presentations, one was linked to transcriptome sequencing and exome capture to detect aspects of local adaptation in the alpine tree Pinus cembra (Christian Rellstab et al.), and another referred to the identification of RNA editing sites based on complete mitochondrial genome sequences in two Populus species presented by Birgit Kersten and her co-authors. For the first time at the AForGeN participated a researcher from Japan, Saneyoshi Ueno who has been invited to present his latest results and experience in transcriptome sequencing. The author summarizes the resources for Abies sachalinensis included in the TodoFirGene database which also links to the proteomes of 13 other species, allowing a comparative genomic study. The one-day scientific sessions ended with discussions due to promote subsequent strategic session on SFGP, scheduled for the third day of the meeting.

June 22, 2018

A field trip was planned to the mountain pass Vršič (1611 m) and the Sleme meadow. Unfortunately, the weather was unsuitable for a longer hike, and so we visited the National Park Museum and the wonderful Peričnik waterfall and get on buses to the bottom of the Vršič pass.

June 23, 2018

AForGeN Strategic Meeting

Report by Christian Rellstab, WSL.

1) Silver fir genome project (SFGP)

  • Past and present: David Neale and Elena Mosca report on updates of the SFGP. Sequencing and automatic annotation were done by CNAG. Elena Mosca is now putting the pieces of the puzzle together.
  • The manuscript is planned to be submitted to Molecular Ecology Resources. KostyaKrutovsky suggests GigaScience as an alternative. The main goal is to publish the resource, and one focus will be shade tolerance genes.
  • Kati Csilléry reports on the ongoing experiment to create controlled crosses for a genetic map. The WSL tree was used as the mother, the pollen comes from an Abies cephalonica from Italy (Nicola La Porta, FEM). If everything works fine, an estimated maximum number of 3,700 hybrid seeds can be expected in autumn. If possible, an intra-specific cross should follow next year.
  • Future: Several members show interest in continuing (=financially supporting) the project.
  • Kostya Krutovsky suggests adding long reads to improve the reference assembly.
  • Felix Gugerli reports from ultra HMW DNA extraction for Bionano: first tests at MPIPlön (Kristian Ullrich et al.) look quite successful. First attempts at Bionano are running. General discussion about the pros and cons of the different platforms for long-read sequencing.
  • Berthold Heinze suggests the development of a SNP panel for the community, done with re-sequencing.
  • Kati Csilléry raises the option of exome capture for detecting SNPs.
  • Suggestion from David Neale: Sequence 10 megagametophytes from across the species range at CNAG for around 50’000 Euros for SNP discovery, with individual billing as before.
  • Who would be putting things together in the future? Elena Mosca’s contract is ending soon.
  • Discussion of how to support the project: individual contributions, a common project (e.g., DFG sequencing grant), individual national projects, etc.
  • Conclusion: two main working groups will be formed: 1) improvement of the genome by re-sequencing and the development of a SNP panel for the community (leader: Michela Troggio); 2) Improvement of the current genome with long reads and transcriptomes (leader: Felix Gugerli).

2) AForGeN business meeting

  • The 2019 meeting will be organized by Bruno Fady and held in the French Alps (either western French Alps or Mont Ventoux).
  • David Neale and Felix Gugerli resign as IUFRO coordinator deputies and members of the AForGeN steering committee. Therefore, two new members have to be elected. The candidates were: Westergren, Csilléry, Rellstab, Hansen, Kersten, Mosca. Marjana Westergren from Slovenia and Christian Rellstab from Switzerland were elected.