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Grand Trees, Large Genomes

A research team associated with the nonprofit Save the Redwoods League is planning on sequencing the genomes of the coast redwood and giant sequoia.

According to a press release, the five-year, $2.6 million Redwood Genome Project hopes to be able to use their results to assess the genetic diversity within redwood forests to guide management plans of the stately trees.

"This is by far the greatest challenge that anyone has taken on (relating to redwoods), and it has an infinite number of uses," David Neale from the University of California, Davis, who is working on the project, tells the San Francisco Chronicle. "These conifers are very, very old and have been accumulating DNA for millions of years."

Redwoods have hexaploid genomes that are some 10 times larger than that of humans, the Chronicle adds, noting that other conifers that have been sequenced so far have had far smaller genomes. Still, Neale says he plans to have both redwood species' genomes sequenced by next year. 

In its pilot studies, the project has found that some trees are more resilient to conditions like drought, fire, pests, and disease, according to the release. Emily Burns from the Save the Redwoods League adds that finding the genes responsible for these adaptations could inform conservation strategies.