Population history, management methods and adaptive potential
of beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) populations in Central and East-Central Europe

Adaptation processes are reactions to modified environmental conditions ultimately leading to a state of adaptedness. Adaptability refers to the ability to react in a way which ensures survival. Traditionally, adaptation is distinguished as either physiological or evolutionary. Physiological adaptations are transient reactions of an organism ensuring its survival and potential for reproduction in response to environmental fluctuations or directional environmental change. Evolutionary adaptations are hereditary responses of populations to environmental change. Of course, both are determined by genetic factors, leading finally to improving fitness
The research project use molecular approaches to understand, monitor and predict genetic diversity, ecosystems structures, dynamics and processes in terrestrial ecosystems. It is linked to thematically related activities of the partner institutions in Hungary (University of West Hungary, Sopron) and Germany (Göttingen University, Section of Forest Genetics and Forest Tree Breeding). Both institutions participate in the Network of Excellence “EVOLTREE” (Evolution of trees as drivers of terrestrial biodiversity). EVOLTREE is supported by the EU for the period 2006-2010 promoting research with similar overall objectives.
Molecular genetic markers (SSRs) are utilised in order to assess the dynamics of genetic structures at the DNA level and its possible implications for adaptive capacities during the reproduction of beech in two stands: A forest dominated by beech in its climatic optimum close to Göttingen (Solling hills) and a more eastern population in Hungary (Zemplén-Mountains in the Nature Park Nagy-Milic).
The proposed project will use modern biotechnological tools mainly based on the observation of variation at the DNA level in order to contribute to a better understanding of the dynamics of intraspecific diversity as a prerequisite for the development of sound conservation strategies. Our focus is small-scale spatial patterns of genetic variation in beech stands and the impact of different regeneration methods in this contact.