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Torrey pine genetic research may benefit efforts to save chestnut, ash trees

A new genomic study of the rarest pine tree in the world, the Torrey pine, aimed at bolstering the case for a genetic rescue of the species barely surviving in the western U.S., revealed the complexity and risk associated with the endeavor. However, a tree geneticist at Penn State who oversaw the research suggests it may benefit efforts she is involved in to save other species in the East.

“This study was ahead of the curve, and it provides a roadmap of sorts for how we might approach preservation and conservation of genetic variation for the American chestnut and ash,” said Jill Hamilton, associate professor in the College of Agricultural Sciences and director of the Schatz Center for Tree Molecular Genetics. “It should influence how we approach conservation application of genomics for forest trees in the future. It shows that we need to consider genetic variation resulting from adaptation as we assemble seed sources that might be used for restoration.”

The Torrey pine is a critically endangered species found in just two small, widely separated populations along the coast of California. In the study, recently published in Molecular Ecology, researchers collected pine needle tissue from a total of 286 trees for genomic analysis, including 146 individuals from the mainland population at the Torrey Pine State Reserve, near La Jolla, and 140 individuals from the population on Santa Rosa Island.


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Thursday, July 21, 2022