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Forest Genetics and Biodiversity

Why are some trees tall, some tiny, some resistant to diseases and some climatically more adaptable than others? Part of the answer lies in their genes, and we are making use of this in breeding!

Climatic adaptation in Norway spruce

Our genetic research targets primarily climatic adaptation and population genetics of Norway spruce. Proper climatic adaptation depends critically on timing of budburst in spring and bud set in autumn, important selection criteria in tree breeding. In Norway spruce, it has been shown that these phenotypic traits are influenced by the temperature during the trees' early childhood, i.e. seed development. We are now trying to unravel the molecular basis for these epigenetic effects.

Tree breeding

The main traits we are selecting for are climatic adaptation, growth and wood quality – without compromising genetic variation. Thus, tree breeding is assisted by population genetic studies to estimate genetic diversity in seed orchards and natural populations, identify pollen donors and estimate the effective population sizes in seed orchards. We have a close collaboration with forest pathologists to investigate the genetic components in disease resistance, e.g. root rot in Norway spruce and ash dieback.

Phylogeography and conservation genetics

The population histories and postglacial migration of trees affect their genetic structure. In addition to Norway spruce, we have been working on English yew and several deciduous species, most of which have northern marginal populations in Norway. Currently we are working on conservation genetics of ash, utilizing both traditional markers as microsatellites and next generation sequencing approaches.

Next generation sequencing laboratory

We have a well-equipped molecular lab, including a next-generation sequencer (Ion Torrent PGM sequencer). With this system we can efficiently scale our experiments in relation to the number of markers obtained and individuals profiled.


Flowering spruce. Foto: Arne Steffen Rem/NIBIO
Contact person:

Tor Myking
Head of Department
(+47) 404 61 745