Posts Tagged ‘trees’

In the limelight …

December 1st, 2012

Forests, Trees, Tree-Microbe Interactions, Symbiosis, Mycorrhizas, Wood Decayers, Carbon Sequestration & Cycling, Global Changes, Genomics … words I have used many times during this amazing week. Starting with an interview by Sophie Bécherel from France Inter on Monday,  followed by a journalist crew’s visiting the lab on Tuesday, then an interview at France Info with Marie-Odile Monchicourt on Wednesday and the INRA Award ceremony on Thursday with the Minister of Higher Education and Research, Geneviève Fioraso, and the Minister of the Agriculture, Stéphane Le Foll. I haven’t fully realized yet that I was awarded the INRA Laurel Wreath for Excellence for my work on tree-microbe interactions and fungal genomics. I hope this award will help in promoting the research on soil microbial ecology, forest ecosystems and symbiotic interactions.

> François Le Tacon, Annegret Kohler, Claude Murat, Alice Vayssières and I describing our on-going research: View the video (in French)


From Left to Right : Frédéric Dardel (President of the INRA Scientific Advisory Board), David Lowe (journaliste), Michel Pellé (Research Support Award), Olivier Hamant (The Young Researcher Award), Mariane Damois (Research Support Award), Hélène Bergès (The Engineer’s Award), François Houllier (INRA CEO), Stéphane Le Foll (Minister for Agriculture) and myself  (The Laurel Wreath for Excellence). © INRA, B. Nicolas

Cellulose Factories

February 25th, 2012

Bringing trees into the fuel line, the special New Phytologist issue on ‘Bioenergy trees’ is now available:

A flippable PDF that collates the featured papers together is also available for download at

Thanks to those of you who contributed.

Photo: Cross-sections of Arabidopsis stems, showing vascular bundles from Li et al. (2012).

Lab of Excellence for Advanced Research on the Biology of TRee and Forest Ecosystems

February 15th, 2012



Forests provide a wide range of services: wood products and biomass for bioenergy, as well as many ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration, water and air quality, biodiversity preservation and amenities. The European forest area has been expanding over the last century and standing tree volume is increasing, but several models showed that the trend towards increased productivity might reverse after 2050. Today, forests face unprecedented changes, largely resulting from human activity. Forests will experience rapid changes in the near future, and characterising the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of their response to global change is an ongoing challenge. European forests are usually managed to provide multiple services, and are facing increasingly pressing demands from society to supply more products of higher quality to fuel and feed the ‘green’ economy of tomorrow, and to provide additional social and environmental services to satisfy populations. These sometimes conflicting injunctions are taking place within a context of weak timber markets, scarce public resources, and against a backdrop of unprecedented anthropogenic changes that question the very long-term sustainability of many forest ecosystems.


The Lab of Excellence (LABEX) for Advanced Research on the Biology of FoRest Ecosystems (ARBRE) was granted yesterday with € 7.5 million by the ‘Investissement d’Avenir‘ programme. The LABEX ARBRE  is a consortium of labs from INRA, Université de Lorraine, and AgroParisTech to address issues challenging forests through an interdisciplinary approach. ARBRE covers a broad spectrum of expertise, and has the potential to create a unique scientific consortium for experimental tree biology, functional ecology, wood sciences, economics, and for transferring knowledge to partners in forest management, wood transformation and other activities. One of the main strengths is the presence within ARBRE of research and training capacities that cover the whole forest-wood chain from production to transformation and economic valuation, which is a unique feature across Europe. Moreover, the contributions from the Office National des Forêts (ONF), Centre National de la Propriété Forestière (CNPF) and EFICENT-Observatory of European Forests (EFICENT-OEF) will facilitate knowledge transfer and help the emergence of novel research questions. ARBRE will support ~ 100 scientists.

The main research objectives of ARBRE are to further the understanding of biological, ecological and evolutionary processes that affect interactions between organisms in temperate forest ecosystems, and to develop new approaches to address key questions related to nutrient cycling, carbon storage and cycling, forest productivity, wood products, ecosystem services and sustainable forest management. We will implement a wide range of disciplines – from genomics to functional ecology and economics – to understand, monitor and predict community structures, dynamics and processes in forest ecosystems. ARBRE will also address significant questions in forest ecology and evolution through synthesis of existing data or development of novel theory, design novel wood products and make policy recommendations based on scientific data.


Relative to existing international research efforts in this field, ARBRE’s unique added value is its integrated approach aiming to: (i) develop a comprehensive molecular-level understanding of the forest soil microbiome, tree-microbe interactions, and tree development and functioning, to be achieved through the application of ‘-omics’ approaches and system biology; (ii) generate functional and mechanistic insights into the complex interactions between biogeochemical cycles, carbon sequestration and biodiversity in forests, including interspecific and intraspecific genetic variability. This will be achieved by using long-term observatories (LTO), dedicated field experiments including isotopes tracing and large database analysis; (iii) integrate biochemistry- and biophysics-based knowledge to understand wood formation and to produce timber with properties tailored for ‘green’ end-products; (iv) contribute to the broader development of social, economic, and regulatory policies related to forest sciences and innovation in France, focusing on biodiversity; (v) train highly qualified personnel for careers in France’s R&D-driven industries and institutions; (vi) disseminate scientific innovation rapidly to end users represented in the consortium [like Office National des Forêts (ONF), CNPF and others].

ARBRE will couple bottom-up (from the understanding of processes to forest functions) and top down approaches (from the production of goods and services back to processes) within a series of interconnected task forces or  workpackages (WPs). WP1 will integrate genomics know-how and toolkits to identify major genetic factors controlling soil microbiomes, root-microbe interactions, tree root development and functioning, focusing on stress responses. WP2 will investigate the processes taking place at the interfaces (soil/microbe/tree and tree/atmosphere) in disturbed forest ecosystems and will forecast the state and future evolution of temperate forests. WP3 will link wood properties of the forest resource to the ‘green’ end-products that can be tailored from wood fibers and their chemical components. WP4 will develop biodiversity indicators and a new set of economic instruments (such as payment instruments) for motivating forest managers based on those indicators.

ARBRE will also stimulate the development of educational programmes in tree and microbial biology, forest ecology and management, wood sciences and economic sciences. ARBRE will contribute to the development of a unique and coordinated training facility for engineering and research covering all fields relevant to the forest based sector, contributing to the development and recognition of Lorraine as one of the leading European Center for education in forest and wood sciences. ARBRE will open new positions for postdoctoral fellows and Ph.D. students in the coming months.




A New Phytologist feature dedicated to Bioenergy Trees

February 4th, 2012

The New Phytologist feature dedicated to Bioenergy Trees (an outcome of the 26th New Phytologist Symposium) is provisionally scheduled for vol 194, issue 1, which will be published online at the beginning of February. The cover page below will highlight the feature. The Symposium was great and the series of review and research papers are exciting.

L’Homme qui Peint des Arbres

February 4th, 2012

David Hockney, (July 9, 1937) is an English painter and famous pop-artist. I like his vivid paintings inspired by the East Yorkshire landscape with woodlands, forests and trees.

“… stand in the landscape you love, try and depict your feelings of space, and forget photographic vision, which is distancing us too much from the physical world.” (D Hockney, February 2007)

Visit his web site.

© David Hockney.

myTree of the Month

August 21st, 2011

Western hemlocks (Tsuga heterophylla) colonizing a rocky islet of the Chiswell Islands in the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge (Kenai Peninsula, Alaska). Western hemlock is native to the west coast of North America, with its northwestern limit on the Kenai Peninsula. Cruising between the Chiswell Islands is an once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Photo: © F Martin

26NPS Bioenergy Trees … follow up

June 17th, 2011

26 New Phytologist Symposium ‘Bioenergy Trees’

Following the Bioenergy Trees NPS meeting last month at Nancy, we have a number of updates now on the website (, including: Photos from the Symposium, Podcast interviews with the Poster Prize Winners and copies of the winning posters, Podcast interviews with lead organiser Francis Martin and Poster Prize Judge, Steve Strauss, Feature article written by New Phyt’s intern Karina Vanadzina, giving an overview of 2nd generation biofuels and the contribution of the Symposium to this research.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@NewPhyt) for updates about this and other New Phyt symposia and for information about the journal.

Our colleague, Berthold Heinz, is now inviting you to the forthcoming meeting that is being held in Vienna, Austria and which will be relevant for many of you working on bioenergy trees.

The Future Role of Bio-energy from Tree Biomass in Europe – 6-11 November 2011 – Europahaus, Vienna/Austria

Meeting Website:

Photo: Populus trichocarpa ‘Fritzi Pauley’ © F Martin

Bioenergy Trees – A New Phytologist Symposium

February 23rd, 2011


You’ll be pleased to hear that we are getting lots of interest in the 26th New Phytologist symposium but, nevertheless, we do ask you to keep spreading the word to make sure we get the best possible attendance. The 26th NPS will provide a platform for brainstorming and discussions of the most recent systems biology applications aiming to deliver tailored sustainable tree lignocellulosic biomass for bioethanol.

The deadline for submitting poster abstracts for this meeting is Friday 11th March 2011. We would be grateful if you could forward this information to members of your research group who may be planning on attending the symposium. For more information about poster abstracts, please visit the symposium site.

Also, if you know of people who would like to attend the meeting, please encourage them to register using the following link:

The meeting is filling up quickly and the early bird registration fees will no longer be available from 14th March 2011.

Trees: the Life-Form of the Month

April 10th, 2010

old_oakIf you love trees as I do, you should read Olivia Judson’s recent post on the New York Times science blog:

“Trees figure in our mythologies and metaphors — the tree of life, the tree of knowledge — and we often imagine them to harbor spirits and sprites. They also figure in a big way in our reality: forests (still) cover about 30 percent of the planet’s land, and may make up as much as 80 percent of Earth’s biomass. That is, if you were to put all the organisms on the planet on a giant set of scales, trees would account for 80 percent of the total.

Better yet, trees harbor plenty of non-imaginary beings. Birds like starlings or blue tits nest in tree holes; others, like magpies and crows, build their nests high in the branches. Chimpanzees sleep in trees. A number of fungi — truffles, anyone? — associate with tree roots. Insects like wasps make houses (galls) in the leaves.

And if you half-close your eyes and dream a little, you can also see its roots, stretching deep beneath the grass, much as its branches and twigs stretch outwards towards the buildings and upwards towards the sky. And so on …..”

Photo: Old oak near my home © FM