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Content archived on 2024-05-21

Securing gene conservation, adaptive breeding potential and utilisation of a model multipurpose tree species (castanea sativa mill.) in a dynamic environment


Problems to be solved
The CASCADE project seeks to provide the information needed to safeguard European chestnut, an important tree for landscape and rural diversification which has suffered from domestication, fungal attack and silvicultural practices - challenging its genetic variation - and whose genetic resources are at risk from expected climatic change for future generations.
Three main problems will be addressed:
(1) to assess the capacity of chestnut stands (both natural and domesticated) to cope with future climate changes, biological (pathogens) and anthropic (silvicultural practices) threats;
(2) to devise optimum long-term strategies for the conservation of evolutionary and the economic potential of chestnut stands in rural areas;
(3) to provide operational, effective criteria, methods, guidelines and recommendations for optimal management of extant and future chestnut cultivation. The objectives of CASCADE are consistent to some of the aims of EU policies (e.g. EC Agenda 2000, European Council Resolution 1999/C56/01, Regulation EC No 1467/94) in the fields of biodiversity conservation, sustainable forestry, environmental protection, rural development.
Scientific objective and approach
CASCADE aims to characterise the variability of chestnut stands (wild and domesticated) from across Europe, with respect to its genetical, ecological, pathological, economical and silvicultural aspects. An inventory covering the distribution range and domestication of chestnut genetic resources will be prepared by integrating molecular, physiological and pathological data, with historical and climatic information. DNA- and protein-based variation will be used for estimation of genetic diversity of stands across the present distribution area. Genetically depauperated populations will be highlighted as well as stands threatened by pathogen attack. Mechanisms of maintenance of genetic variation (e.g. gene flow via pollen dispersal) will be elucidated. The genetic basis of variation for adaptive traits (drought resistance, phenology and growth, resistance to pathogens) will be investigated on seedlings reared in greenhouses and in field trials. Assessment and comparison of the adaptive potential of different stands to contrasting environmental conditions will help to identify the genetic "reservoirs" of adaptability to the climate change. Conservation and sustainability indexes will be developed taking into account the relations between species' auto ecology, management types and economic values from cultivation. A cost-benefit analysis of specimen programmes for the conservation of chestnut genetic resources (market and non-market benefits and costs, and survey) will be carried out.
Expected Impacts
The comprehensive inventory of chestnut resources will be useful for the establishment of conservation priorities to delineate endangered and 'functional gene resource' populations. The estimation of pollen dispersal in orchards will help to define technical guidelines for sustainable local silvicultural practices (e.g. min/max number and nature of the pollinators). The identification of genetically valuable material (e.g. high-performing and/or highly resistant individuals useful for the genetic improvement of the species) will be obtained as a spin-off of the adaptive traits analysis. Genetic information needed to inform future management policy would be provided as well as socio-economic evaluation of the costs and benefits of different conservation approaches. Criteria for the future sustainable management of chestnut genetic resources will be established and made known to conservation bodies, ministries and farmers so to safeguard its future. CASCADE will also provide a model for similar studies on other multipurpose tree species.

Call for proposal

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Participants (10)