Genetic conservation molecular studies of oak

Oak trees growing on the OAKFLOW study site at DalkeithForest Research has participated in two EU funded studies on the molecular genetics of oak:

  • FAIROAK - Synthetic maps of gene diversity and provenance performance for utilization and conservation of oak genetic resources
  • OAKFLOW - Intra and interspecific geneflow in oaks.

Morphological differentiation of Quercus robur and Quercus petraea

In the course of the FAIROAK project a method was established to differentiate between the two oak species based on principal component analysis of 13 leaf morphology characters (Kremer et al., 2002).

Structure of genetic diversity

The two British oakwoods which were studied, Roudsea and Dalkeith showed high levels of diversity when studied using microsatellite markers. The diversity was structured across relatively short distances so that trees growing in close proximity tended to show greater similarity to each other than those growing further apart (Cottrell et al. 2002).

Glacial origins

Collaborative work during FAIROAK sampled 2600 oak populations across Europe in order to determine the number of glacial refugia and the postglacial routes of colonisation of oaks across Europe. The results of this enormous effort have been published in a Special Issue of Molecular Ecology (Volume 156).

The results reveal that Britain and Ireland were entirely colonised by material originating from a Spanish refugium which migrated northwards through France and into Britain. The material which entered Britain contained three Iberian haplotypes which showed a distict distribution pattern, one of which is largely western, another which is central and a third which is largely eastern.

Map showing cpDNA variation in British oak
cpDNA variation in British oak


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