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Collaborative project: Defensins to monitor and to characterise the vigor of broad-leaved trees under changing climatic conditions (DeMoVit)


Project code: 28WB413004
Contract period: 01.07.2017 - 30.06.2020
Budget: 285,826 Euro
Purpose of research: Inventory & Assessment
Keywords: forestry, forest genetics, beech, risk management, forest growth, climate (climate relevance, climate protection, climate change), oak, silviculture, hardwood

European beech (Fagus sylvatica) and oaks (including Quercus petraea) are the most prevalent deciduous tree
species in Germany with great ecological and central forest management significance. In order to ensure the
sustainable development and management of these species, even under the regional conditions of climate
change, practicable and precise methods for the early detection of abiotic and biotic vitality stressors are necessary.
Plant defensins represent a large group of small peptides that have been studied in many organisms for stress and
stress tolerance. They play a central role in the defence of plants against various forms of abiotic and biotic
stress. Within DeMoVit, the Universities of Braunschweig, Freiburg, Eberswalde and the Helmholtz Zentrum
München will investigate the suitability of the expression of plant defensins as fitness markers for both tree species.
Thereby, the conventionally used visually based monitoring should be complemented by molecular based
monitoring, which enables an earlier, more objective and more specific evaluation.
The diverse plant defensins are regulated specific to different stress conditions. Stressors presenting major challenges
for forestry operations are abiotic (drought and waterlogging) or biotic (fungal pathogen infestation like
Phytophthora infestation at beeches) or herbivore (damage by insects like gypsy moths at oaks). The regulation
of specific plant defensins under these different stress conditions will be analysed at the mRNA- and proteinlevel.
The plant material will be generated both in climate chamber assays with young trees under controlled
stress conditions and samples from adult trees in previously characterised forests.
Vision is the development of an antibody-based test strip system that can be used in natural forest stands as a
diagnostic tool for the early detection of growth-damaging stressors. This system should be small as well as easy
to handle and to interpret. It will allow to save forests without macroscopic symptoms by counteractive measures
at the right time.

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