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Summer Research Project 2021

  • Title: Forest Carbon Sequestration Sub-project 3: Genetic Rescue to Maintain Carbon Sinks
  • Group Project Leader: Jonathan Thompson
  • Mentors: Meghan Blumstein; Emma Conrad-Rooney; Josh Plisinski; Mayra Rodriguez Gonzalez; Pamela Templer; Jonathan Thompson
  • Collaborators: David Basler; Danelle Laflower
  • Project Description:

    This is part of the group project 'Forest Carbon Sequestration: Effects of land use change, atmospheric deposition, and genetic variation,' which has the overarching theme of controls on carbon sequestration in the Northeast.

    • What is the potential contribution of land use and management practices toward increasing forest carbon sequestration to achieve greenhouse gas mitigation goals within forests of New England?
    • Do atmospheric inputs of multiple elements, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and cations (calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium) affect rates of carbon sequestration in mixed temperate and northern hardwood forests of New England and other forested sites around the U.S.?
    • To what extent is seasonal timing of leaf-out in oaks under genetic control, and how can this knowledge inform genomic rescue programs to help trees to adapt to a warming world?

    Sub-project III. Genetic Rescue to Maintain Carbon Sinks (1 student; Mentor: Meghan Blumstein)

    The future of forests world-wide depends on their ability to acclimate, adapt, or migrate in response to warming. These processes are all intertwined and often require the movement of adaptive alleles northward. However, gene flow is currently unable to keep pace with the rapidity of anthropogenic climate change and overcome the fragmentation of the natural landscape by humans. This leads forest populations to become maladaptive and thus less productive from a carbon accumulation and climate mitigation standpoint. One solution to this problem is large-scale genomic rescue programs, wherein genotypes are moved to populations that lack allelic diversity and adaptive potential is maintained. These programs, such as those run in Canada to alleviate the effects of spruce budworm, require an in-depth understanding of intraspecific variation and genomic controls on adaptive traits.

    Phenology, or specifically the timing of leaf-out in this context, is an adaptive trait that balances early-leaf out for competitive carbon gain with the risk of tissue damage due to late-spring frosts. In order to ensure that carbon gains are maximized and mortality minimized in the future, phenological variants that enable adaptation to new local climates must be moved to vulnerable populations. This sub-project will examine the genomic and environmental drivers of variation in phenological timing in red oak, a dominant northeastern species. Using long-term records of phenological phenotypes from drone imagery and remote cameras (phenocams) as well as whole-genome sequences of red oak taken from the Harvard Forest and other long-term ecological research sites, the student will identify the degree to which genomic variation drives phenotypic variation and identify causal genomic variants that may enable genetic rescue programs.

    Specifically, we seek 1 student to help with the processing of whole-genome sequences (command-line, python) and phenological data (R, GIS). Depending on interest, the student may focus largely on the genomic datasets or the phenological datasets and will be encouraged to explore their own lines of inquiry as well.

    Typical Week:
    - Student will participate in dedicated weekly meetings and bi-weekly journal club
    - Student will join Thompson Lab meetings (MWTh at 930 ET)
    - Student will meet with other sub-project students at least weekly for peer-to-peer networking and mentoring
    - Student will read papers about genetic variation and phenology

  • Readings:

    Decina SM, PH Templer, and LR Hutyra. 2018. Atmospheric inputs of nitrogen, carbon, and phosphorus across an urban area: unaccounted fluxes and canopy influences. Earth's Future 6:134-148.

    Duveneck, M. J. and J. R. Thompson. 2019. Social and biophysical determinants of future forest conditions in New England: Effects of a modern land-use regime. Global Environmental Change 55:115-129.

    Finzi, A. C., Giasson, M.-A., Barker Plotkin, A., Aber, J. D., Boose, E. R., Davidson, E. A., Dietze, M. C., Ellison, A. M., Frey, S. D., Goldman, E., Keenan, T. F., Melillo, J. M., Munger, J. W., Nadelhoffer, K. J., Ollinger, S. V., Orwig, D. A., Pederson, N., Richardson, A. D., Savage, K., Tang, J., Thompson, J. R., Williams, C. A., Wofsy, S. C., Zhou, Z., Foster, D. R. 2020. Carbon budget of the Harvard Forest Long-Term Ecological Research site: pattern, process, and response to global change. Ecological Monographs 10.1002/ECM.1423: 95 pp

    Groffman PM, CT Driscoll, J Duran, JL Campbell, LM Christenson, TJ Fahey, MC Fisk, C Fuss, GE Likens, G Lovett, L Rustad, PH Templer. 2018. Nitrogen oligotrophication in northern hardwood forests. Biogeochemistry 141:523-539.

    Reinmann AB, J Susser, EMC Demaria, PH Templer. 2019. Declines in northern forest tree growth following snowpack decline and soil freezing. Global Change Biology 25:420-430.

  • Research Category: Physiological Ecology, Population Dynamics, and Species Interactions, Group Projects, Conservation and Management