Service Communautaire d'Information sur la Recherche et le Développement - CORDIS

Molecular tools to assess, preserve and use biodiversity

The study and conservation of biodiversity represent a major scientific and environmental challenge. A result of the long and prodigious evolution of the terrestrial ecosystem, the diversity of the living world (its biodiversity) is now under threat on a global scale. The protection of this natural heritage is not only an ethical duty, but involves preserving irreplaceable assets from which medical science and agriculture in particular can draw resources as yet unimagined.

The project Forest Trees was devoted to studying genetic diversity in forest species, and led to a new technique for extracting and identifying variations in plant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). This technology is now available in two kits, called DNeasy and Rneasy. The kits make it possible to isolate plant or fungal DNA and ribonucleic acid (RNA) easily, and on a small scale, from fresh, dried, or frozen samples. This is a key step to identifying the plant tissue and is of interest to diverse users such as conservation bodies, forestry managers, seed companies, zoos and botanical gardens. The many European laboratories involved compared operating protocols and results and consequently two separately developed approaches were eventually combined. European added value also applies to the considerable advances made in the standardization of delicate molecular screening techniques used in genetic diversity studies in plants and animals. These molecular tools allow rapid and efficient detection and assessment of this diversity.

The use of these techniques on a large scale in international laboratory networks has been severely hampered up to now by the absence of reliable methods for reproducing results. Two methods have been developed that now provide good guarantees for reproducibility. Such is the interest in this field, that various end-users have set up the Biotechnology for Biodiversity Platform (BBP), providing a dynamic framework for interchange between producers and users of this technology.


Angela KARP
Tél.: +44-1275549246
Fax: 1275394281