EVOLTREE – the importance of genetic variation for trees and forest development

Our existence is based on the principle of genetic variation, which is the adaptive reservoir that enables us and other species to adapt to changing conditions. Forests are a dominant form in the European landscape. They are also multifunctional, their functions including economic (wood production), recreational (tourism) and acting as a habitat for many species (biodiversity).


Maintaining this biodiversity, especially the genetic biodiversity, is the study object of the European Network of Excellence ‘EVOLTREE’ (Evolution of Trees as Drivers of Terrestrial Biodiversity). EVOLTREE studies both the genetic variation of trees and of species associated with trees such as insects and fungi.


EVOLTREE aims to increase our knowledge of terrestrial biodiversity and of the functioning of ecosystems in order to be able to advise on improving the management of natural resources and protecting genetic variation. The research will focus on describing genetic variation in European trees, on predicting what will happen to that variation in a changing climate, and on how the forest ecosystem works and serves a range of goals. The cornerstones of EVOLTREE are the research fields genomics, genetics, ecology and evolution. EVOLTREE hopes that integrating these four fields will lead to a better understanding of how we should handle genetic variation.

What we do

Alterra’s responsibilities within the EVOLTREE project include:

  • Developing individually oriented models that make it easier to assess the variation between individuals (genetics) and to predict what will happen to this variation in the future as the result of a particular management measure, changed climate or other factor.
  • Research into seed and pollen distribution in beeches in the Veluwe region. In the Planken Wambuis nature area, there are a fair number of isolated beeches. This is in contrast to Poland, for example, where beech populations constitute a major continuum. Currently, we are looking at the ways in which the landscape structure affects pollen and seed distribution.

How do we use the results?


The data that we gather tells us about the consequences of practising a certain type of forestry management or about the trickle-down effect that climate change can have on the distribution of tree species. This gives the forestry managers useful information that they can use in their work.

Scientific articles