Predicting forest-tree seed dispersal across a landscape is useful for estimating gene flow from genetically engineered (GE) or transgenic trees. The question of biocontainment has yet to be resolved, although field-trial permits for transgenic forest trees are on the rise. Most current field trials in the United States occur in the Southeast where Pinus taeda L., an indigenous species, is the major timber commodity. Seed dispersal distances were simulated using a model where the major determinants were: (1) forest canopy height at seed release, (2) terminal velocity of the seeds, (3) absolute seed release, and (4) turbulent-flow statistics, all of which were measured or determined within a P. taeda plantation established from seeds collected from wild forest-tree stands at the Duke Forest near Durham, North Carolina, USA. In plantations aged 16 and 25 years our model results showed that most of the seeds fell within local-neighborhood dispersal distances, with estimates ranging from 0.05 to 0.14 km from the source. A fraction of seeds was uplifted above the forest canopy and moved via the long-distance dispersal (LDD) process as far as 11.9––33.7 km. Out of 10 5 seeds produced per hectare per year, roughly 440 seeds were predicted to be uplifted by vertical eddies above the forest canopy and transported via LDD. Of these, 70 seeds/ha traveled distances in excess of 1 km from the source, a distance too great to serve as a biocontainment zone. The probability of LDD occurrence of transgenic conifer seeds at distances exceeding 1 km approached 100%%.
Ecological Applications – Ecological Society of America
Published: Feb 1, 2006
Keywords: Duke Forest (North Carolina, USA) ; gene flow ; genetically modified conifers ; gymnosperms ; long-distance dispersal ; pine plantation ; Pinus taeda ; seed dispersal ; transgenic trees
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