T4F investigates which trees will be found in the forests in the future: What traits do they need in times of climate change? And which of these trait are most useful for society and can help to create a circular bioeconomy? Which trees have these traits? How can we improve tree breeding to create trees that can withstand the challenges of the future? As trees need such a long time until they are tall and create a forest that can be harvested, we have to think about how the conditions for our trees will be during the next 20, 30 or more years already when we plant new trees today. With computer models, researchers can show both how the climate could develop and they can predict the impact on trees and forest.
Topic 1 of the TC4F program “Forest genetics and the next generation of forest trees” is centered around genomic research and its connection to applied forest tree breeding. The main aim is to use genomic data and develop tools to increase the efficiency of tree breeding. Researchers that are part of this theme investigate topics like the improvement of specific wood properties of different tree species and the metabolic occurrences in the leaves. More broad aspects like the overall growth and development of trees and the yearly seasonal cycle including the subsequent changes in the trees are also important fields of investigation. To be able to efficiently use all the competences of the TC4F program, collaborations with other topics are constantly ongoing and further improvements for mass propagation of trees are developed.
It is important to not only look at certain tree species or individuals separately, but take into account the environment these trees are living in. This is the main goal of the second theme of TC4F: “Growth and interaction with the environment – current and future”. Abiotic factors like heat, cold and water availability, as well as biotic interactions in form of below ground mycorrhiza funghi affect the carbon and nitrogen cycles in trees. The current and future climate changes will influence on how our future forests might look like as the interactions with these biotic and abiotic factors will have an influence on general tree physiology and nutrient cycling. By using genomic and transcriptomic approaches together with modelling, machine learning and remote sensing technologies, the researchers of this theme try to understand the effects the changing environment will have on our future forests.
The third topic of TC4F puts its research focus on a sustainable and adaptive management of forests. Several different aspects are investigated to make sure that the potential of our forests is fully used. Looking at the most common species and comparing different types of forests within Sweden is only one of the big research areas. In addition to that, overall tree growth is investigated by looking at various species and trying to modify agricultural land to improve certain varieties to further enhance the productivity of our forests. Another major area of interest is the modelling of future forests with the knowledge that we gained from the historic growth of our current forests. Climate changes will inevitably have impact on our future trees and forests, and it is important to investigate the potential outcomes we will have to face in the near future.