Tree genetics: introduction

Introduction to forest tree genetics

Forest trees are believed to form 82% of the biomass on land. They play crucial roles in acting as a carbon sink, climate regulation and water quality preservation. They are also a major source of biodiversity themselves and are a major driving force in the biodiversity within other species with which they interact (such as fungi, insects and birds).

Most traits in trees are inherited in a way that involves a combination of multiple relatively small contributions from different genes, and are therefore called “complex traits”. In humans, an example would be intelligence. In trees, there are only a few known examples of traits that are inherited in a Mendelian way – i.e. due to the inheritance of a single gene. An example is resistance to white-pine blister rust, observed in many pine species. In contrast, in humans, there are thousands of known examples of Mendelian traits (e.g. see the online catalogue at OMIM).


For a more detailed source of reference, please see the informative review published by Neale and Kremer (2011) in Nature Reviews Genetics.