Elms (Ulmus spp.) are threatened by an aggressive fungal disease, Dutch elm disease (DED) Photo: Liina Jürisoo

Project: New approaches for conservation of threatened elm trees through holobiont concept

The overall goal of this project is to expand the current knowledge base for development of sustainable conservation strategies for elms (Ulmus spp.) under the threat of Dutch elm disease. New scientific knowledge is searched by implementing the holobiont concept that acknowledges the potential role of the associated microbiome as a potent factor behind the tree resistance to pathogens.

Facts about the project

Project manager
Liina Jürisoo
Other project members
Johanna Witzell, Linnaeus University; Åke Olsson och Audrius Menkis, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences; Thomas Kraft, Skogforsk; Louis Bernier, University of Laval; Juan A. Martín, Technical University of Madrid 
Participating organizations
Linnaeus University, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences SLU, Skogforsk, University of Laval; Technical University of Madrid (UPM); Estonian University of Life Sciences 
Mobility grants for early-career researchers, Formas
06 nov 2023 – 05 nov 2026 
Forest and Wood Technology, Department of Forest and Wood Technology, Faculty of Engineering

More about the project

Elm trees (Ulmus spp.) are threatened by an aggressive fungal disease, Dutch elm disease (DED) throughout their distribution area. Because of DED, native elms are classified as Critically Endangered in the Swedish Red List. Elms host rich biodiversity, including internal (endophytic) fungal communities and epiphytic lichens and mosses. Thus, the mortality of elms in the forests will have significant consequences for ecological sustainability. The loss of native elms is also a problem in urban areas where the elms are a valued part of the green infrastructure.

Recently, a national effort was initiated in Sweden to develop a long-term strategy for the conservation of elms through breeding. The proposed project adheres to this initiative. Using the recently emerged holobiont concept as a theoretical framework (i.e., considering that plants and their associated microbes are a functional and evolutive unit), the project explores the potential connections between the DED resistance and composition of associated fungal communities in elms.

It will also examine the consequences of vaccination treatment on the associated fungal and lichen biodiversity and assist the resistance tests needed in future breeding efforts by characterizing the northern pathogen population. Visits to expert collaborators organizations will support the project and career development of the applicant. A focused and target group-oriented communication strategy will ensure efficient transfer of knowledge.