Genomics and gene editing innovations in restoration

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Margaret Byrne

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Genomic analysis has facilitated new research opportunities, particularly in identification of signals of adaptation to climate. Studies in many species are identifying signals of adaptation across climate gradients that provide an evidence base for the use of climate adaptation strategies such as climate-adjusted provenancing to maximise the resilience of restoration plantings to future climates. Applications of genomics are becoming more prevalent in restoration, paving the way for more advanced innovations. Gene editing is revolutionising many fields and has potential for future applications in restoration.  CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing enables production of novel genotypes with desirable traits and gene drives can then spread these genes through populations. To date, considerations in conservation have mainly focused on application of gene drives to control disease vectors and exotic pest species. In plants gene editing is being used in breeding, and in restoration could be used to generate new genotypes suited to challenging, novel environments, whilst retaining existing desirable traits and a local genetic background and may be applicable to large scale control of exotic weeds prior to restoration of native ecosystems. These applications require significant knowledge of particular genes and desired traits. Considered evaluation of gene editing for invasive species control or restoration of challenging environments will require scientific discussion, community acceptance and establishment of regulatory control mechanisms based on risk assessment frameworks. While field-based applications of gene editing and gene drives are some years away, it is imperative that scientists contribute to informed discussion of these innovations.

Resource Type:
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

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Society for Ecological Restoration