Genomics of British oak trees

Sequencing the genomes of over 2000 British oak trees to understand how their DNA affects their health and growth

Close up of three bright green Quercus robur leaves. The sky behind is bright blue.

Large-scale population genome sequencing is already transforming human medicine. We are applying these methods to the health of Britain’s oak trees, which are threatened by diseases like mildew and syndromes such as acute oak decline.

We aim to sequence the genomes of over 2000 oak trees from across Britain. We will analyse the genetic variation of these trees together with information about their health and environments. We will seek to understand if there is a genetic component to acute oak decline.

We will also study local adaptation in oak trees, and how we can predict this from their DNA.

This research will, in future, help tree planters choose the right acorns for the right sites. As we sequence oak genomes, we inevitably also sequence DNA from microorganisms living on oaks. We are also analysing this information, to gain insights into the microbial communities associated with oaks.

Richard Buggs
Gabriele Nocchi
Louise Gathercole
Rômulo Carleial

  1. Production of one of largest genomic and phenotypic studies ever conducted on forest trees
  2. Estimation of the heritability of susceptibility of oak trees to acute oak decline
  3. Identification of candidate genetic loci associated with acute oak decline symptoms.
  4. Finding of adaptive loci related to environmental variables across British oak populations.
  5. Understanding the effects of hybridisation between pendunculate and sessile oak
  6. Identification of microbes found on oak trees, and the distribution of bacteria associated with acute oak decline

Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra)

Nocchi, G., Brown, N., Coker, T.L.R., et al. (2021)

Genomic Structure and Diversity of Oak Populations in British Parklands.

Plants, People, Planet 4: 167-181.