The Genetic Diversity team works largely around these three themes:
(1) the use of genetic research to assess the status of species and populations. This includes research into the genetic connection between populations, the effectiveness of ecological connections, genetic diversity within and between populations, the actual size of populations and their adaptive capacity. With these techniques it is also possible to assign individuals to a region or population of origin. This also allows the selection of suitable source populations for reintroduction and other ecological movements of organisms.
(2) DNA barcoding is a set of methods that uses genetic variation between species to identify and name individuals, sometimes morphologically indistinguishable or completely unrecognisable. Using DNA barcoding, for example, we are able to identify which bat species droppings come from, whether or not a pluck of hairs on a barbed wire comes from wolf, what seabirds eat on the basis of their excrements, which plant species a pollinating insect has visited on the basis of the pollen it carries. In the meantime, we have extended this principle to analyses of environmental DNA or eDNA. Analyses on eDNA samples allow, among other things, to detect which species of amphibians and fish are present in rivers, ponds and pools.
3) Forest tree research focuses on interpreting and understanding the adaptive capacity of tree and shrub species and the functioning of forest populations in a changing climate. The formulation of guidelines for appropriate provenance selection in (re)forestation is based on the study of (epi)genetic and phenological variation, as well as on the construction and monitoring of multi-site provenance experiments.
The preservation of the genetic richness of native trees and shrubs is guaranteed by the inventory, characterisation and valorisation of the valuable in situ and ex situ collections that INBO has built up over the years.
Finally, the availability of suitable (i.e. climate-adaptive) plant material for (re) forestation and forest conversion is strongly linked to the continuous expansion and updating of the Flemish Register of Forestry Source Material and (especially) the List of Recommended Origins.