Helariutta Yrjö (University of Helsinki, UH); Kangasjärvi Jaakko (UH) and Mähönen Ari Pekka (UH)
The Centre of Excellence in Tree Biology will study how genes control the carbon sink effect of trees. Forest trees have a key role as sinks for the atmospheric greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2). Trees take up the CO2 through narrow openings in their leaves (called stomata). After fixing the CO2 in their green chloroplasts to form carbohydrates (or sugars), these compounds are then transported through a conductive tissue (phloem) to the trunk of the tree where they provide building blocks for the plant biomass. A specific stem cell system (cambium) orchestrates the underlying radial growth.
The researchers will first dissect the process in the source (leaf), transport (phloem) and sink (cambium) segments. Finally, they will integrate this information at a whole tree level by combining various disciplines of plant science to analyse how forest tree individuals vary in their capacity to fix CO2. The researchers will also use the information to breed trees that act as more efficient carbon sinks.