Only a fraction of the microbes residing in, on and around soils have been identified through efforts to understand their contributions to global nutrient cycles. Soils are also home to countless viruses that can infect microbes, impacting their ability to regulate these global cycles. In Nature Communications, giant virus genomes have been discovered for the first time in a forest soil ecosystem by researchers from the DOE Joint Genome Institute and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
Characterizing the diversity of microbial cells in a handful of soil is so complex it was considered impossible. To date, only a small fraction of the microbes residing in, on and around soils have been identified as part of efforts to understand their contributions to the global carbon cycle, and to other nutrient cycles. Soils are also home to countless viruses that can infect microbes, impacting their ability to regulate these global cycles.
Reported November 19, 2018, in Nature Communications, giant virus genomes have been discovered for the first time in a forest soil ecosystem by researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Genome Institute (JGI), a DOE Office of Science User Facility, and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst (UMass Amherst). As the name implies, giant viruses are characterized by disproportionately large genomes and virions that house the viruses’ genetic material. They have been frequently found within protists and algae, and thus they are believed to have a significant impact on their hosts’ population dynamics and the planet’s biogeochemical cycles.
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Spruce trees are Canada’s most significant forest resource because they grow in almost every region across the country and are the largest species by the number. Spruce trees also produce high quality wood and fibre that is widely used in the industry. With roughly 400 million seedlings planted per year, spruce are the most reforested trees in Canada. Climate change and unpredictable forest product markets require innovative new tools and technologies for tree breeding programs to deliver reliable spruce stock for future seed and seedling production.
A $10.5-million research project, Spruce-Up: Advanced spruce genomics for productive and resilient forests (Spruce-Up) is estimated to more than double the net economic output value of spruce forests, increasing the value of new trees and reducing losses due to environmental disturbances. This investment, made in part by Genome BC, is being led by Dr. Joerg Bohlmann at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Dr. Jean Bousquet from l’Université Laval. The team will accelerate the development and deployment of genomics-improved spruce seedlings that could be more resistant to insects and drought, has enhanced nutrient use efficiency and results in improved wood quality and productivity.
The Asian longhorned beetle, also known as the starry sky beetle, is native to eastern Asia but has successfully invaded North America and Europe where it infests maple, birch, willow, elm, and poplar trees. An international team of scientists report on the sequencing, annotation, and comparative exploration of this beetle’s genome in an effort to develop novel tools to combat its spread and better understand the biology of invasive wood-boring pests.
The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture is participating in a three-year, $3-million grant by the National Science Foundation to develop a user-friendly interface that will help forest scientists everywhere record and share their genomic data for various tree species.