Silver birch: genome sequence and population genomic analyses

Salojärvi et al. have assembled the genome of silver birch (Betula pendula) and examined genomic diversity across 150 individuals collected from across Northern Europe and Asia. Their study shows that there have been several genetic bottlenecks associated with climate upheaval (e.g., at the K-Pg boundary 66 million years ago).  They also find evidence of short genome duplications that amplify genes involved in responses to the environment. They identify variations in several genes correlated with different environments, such as the light responsive genes PHYC and FRS10 that show variation associated with latitude, longitude and temperature. Because silver birch has been developed as a model, these new insights are likely to find applications in forest biotechnology, for example towards improving wood production and the resilience of trees towards temperature anomalies. Nature Genetics 10.1038/ng.3862