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Tool for defining the Eucalyptus globulus genetic resource

Eucalyptus globulus flower.

Brad Potts
Biodiversity Project Leader
University of Tasmania

The Tasmanian blue gum, Eucalyptus globulus, is the main plantation hardwood grown in Australian plantations and in pulpwood plantations in temperate regions of the world, but its ‘centre of origin’ is Tasmania, the Bass Strait Islands and southern Victoria (Potts et al. 2004).  There are breeding programs in many countries such as Australia, Chile, China, Portugal, Spain and Uruguay. Experimental trials established from native stand seed collections for breeding and research purposes have provided great insights into the genetic diversity which exist within native populations in Australia. 

One of the goals of this project is to better understand the patterns of genetic diversity that exist in these native populations, in order assist breeders, as well as to guide strategies for the in situ management of this important native genetic resource.  As a summary of the broad-scale spatial variation in quantitative genetic diversity in E. globulus, we developed a hierarchical classification of races and subraces for the species based on information from large breeding trials (Dutkowski and Potts 1999).  This classification was subsequently  upgraded based on new information (Potts et al. 2004) and was made available on-line.  If you are not familiar with this tool, pay a visit to and have a play ... it really is very neat!

The racial classification is routinely used in genetic evaluations of analyses undertaken by the Australian National E. globulus Breeding Program run by the Southern Tree Breeders Association (STBA) as well as in studies of its genetic architecture (e.g. Li et al. 2007). Ongoing molecular studies are providing insights into the relationship amongst these races (Steane et al. 2006; Freeman et al. 2007) as well as their affinities to other populations in the complex of species to which E. globulus belongs (Jones et al. 2008).  

Our research on the spatial distribution of genetic diversity in the E. globulus gene pool is increasingly linking with the association genetic research being undertaken in Program 2 (Project 2.1) of the CRC.  This project needs to account for genetic structure inherent within their E. globulus population sample when searching for associations between gene variants and traits such as pulp yield (learn more).  As Project 2.1 is using an association population derived from the original native stand seed collections, information from this research will be providing new information or marker systems to reveal new facets of the genetic diversity in nature.  These issues were the subject of a recent workshop hosted by Project 2.1 at Southern Cross University at Lismore which was attended by geneticists from both programs.