Trees to be barcoded

DNA barcoding technology helping monitor health of all-important boreal forest


The Boreal forest is essential to Canada and the world, storing carbon, purifying water and air and regulating climate. But keeping tabs on the health of this vulnerable biome has proven to be a painstaking and time-consuming undertaking – until now.

Cutting-edge DNA metabarcoding technology developed by the University of Guelph can help speed up and improve the monitoring process, according to a new study published today in Scientific Reports.

“We get a lot more information out of DNA, and we were able to reproduce the data and the interpretations of the data that the standard morphology approach provided,” said study co-author Mehrdad Hajibabaei, a professor in U of G’s Department of Integrative Biology.

In the study, researchers compared use of advanced DNA meta-barcoding technology — identifying DNA from many aquatic organisms at once — with hands-on identification of invertebrate specimens, used for decades to assess ecosystem biodiversity.

Accurate and timely information about the boreal ecosystem has never been more urgently needed, according to forest scientists. Rising temperatures in the boreal region are leading to degradation of permafrost, as well as more intense droughts and wildfires. Climate change is causing wildfires to burn more fiercely, pumping more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

However, federal scientists have been challenged by the sheer volume of bio-monitoring needed for Canada’s forest integrity program, Hajibabaei said.

“They need to assess the health of this forest, and one way to do that is to look at the presence of invertebrates in the streams.”

Stream health is an indicator of overall forest health and biodiversity. The time-tested but time-consuming approach was to manually collect specimens by hand and then identify indicator organisms.

“Natural Resources Canada wanted to get into using the approach – DNA metabarcoding – that my lab has been researching for quite some time,” Hajibabaei said.

“They approached us and we initiated this collaboration. The importance of this work is both in terms of taking this approach into a real-world scenario and helping to address the needs of Canadian Forest Service for timely monitoring.”

Metabarcoding is quick and highly effective at detecting many different aquatic organisms in water, Hajibabaei said.

Identifying invertebrates manually takes time and requires experts, whose results may not always be consistent, he added.

Another important aspect of the work is that it can be applied to an environmental gradient, measuring fluctuations in conditions based on various stressors and processes, Hajibabaei said.

The study involved scientists from U of G’s Centre for Biodiversity Genomics and Natural Resources Canada’s Great Lakes Forestry Centre in Sault Ste. Marie.

The study calls metabarcoding “a potentially transformative approach to biomonitoring, biodiversity discovery and ecosystem health assessments.”

The findings give Natural Resources Canada more confidence in DNA monitoring, Hajibabaei said. “Obviously if they want to mitigate any type of impact, faster and more high throughput approaches are always in demand.”


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October 6, 2017 1:07 pm

a respected university in many faculties. Looks like the groundwork for decades of grants and advanced academic degrees.

Reply to  mrmethane
October 7, 2017 8:03 am

As they already assume global warming, more fires and such, they have no need to ever check to see if it is real. They then forge ahead studying lists of expensive stuff for all the wrong reasons. Wonderful.
We have know for 50 years that the health of a stream, and thus the area it drains, is related to the health of the larval forms living under the rocks in a stream.

October 6, 2017 1:17 pm

The problem with monitoring everything…..every time there’s a hiccup….they can scream about something
…even though all those hiccups are perfectly normal
It’s a sad state when science has progressed to a linear line

Janice Moore
Reply to  Latitude
October 6, 2017 1:34 pm

…they can scream about something ….
Yep. EVERY — time.
Soooommmmethiiiiinnng’s wrong……


Reply to  Janice Moore
October 6, 2017 2:07 pm

roaring laughing!!!…..THANKS JANICE!!

Janice Moore
Reply to  Janice Moore
October 6, 2017 3:37 pm


Reply to  Latitude
October 7, 2017 10:54 am

The problem with monitoring everything is we have no idea what we are actually looking at and morph any changes into hysterics. Funny that scientists believe evolution but do everything they can to STOP the process. I don’t understand that.

Janice Moore
October 6, 2017 1:19 pm

FROM: Phillys Moneypennypincher
TO: Dr. Hagjwhatever
DATE: 10/7/17
Re: Climate change is causing —-
Wait — just — one — minute, there, Haji baby. You missed a step.
Step 1 — Prove “climate change” is:
1) happening;
2) dangerous enough to spend any (and I mean any, Sir) money on.
Please re-submit your proposal after addressing the above items. We must receive your corrected proposal on or before 2 weeks from today, October 21, 2017. If you fail to meet the preceding conditions, you will have to wait until the open proposal period for 2018 (contact Ms. Smythe at waeghialhjd@bmail.grf for those dates).

Moderately Cross of Anglia
October 6, 2017 1:24 pm

Wouldn’t it just be easier and cheaper to barcode the climate alarmists so that someone kind can track them to make sure they don’t come to any harm when out in the community and warn the rest of us of their approach.

Janice Moore
Reply to  Moderately Cross of Anglia
October 6, 2017 1:35 pm

Heh. 🙂

Reply to  Moderately Cross of Anglia
October 6, 2017 6:26 pm

Try microchipping them. Then if they get lost, the nice police or animal control officer who finds them will be able to tell where they belong right away, and solve the problem with a simple phone call.

Reply to  Sara
October 6, 2017 8:03 pm

…and don’t forget other procedures we apply to domestic animals!

Dr Deanster
Reply to  Sara
October 6, 2017 8:37 pm

Yep …. brings back those memories of mountain oysters on calf day.

Bryan A
Reply to  Sara
October 6, 2017 8:39 pm

Don’t forget to spay or neuter your Climate Alarmist

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Moderately Cross of Anglia
October 7, 2017 9:17 am

I already “bar code” a few my trees at my property lines with purple bars – code for no trespassing.

October 6, 2017 1:37 pm

And what is the end game having collected all this data? Seems like it is nothing more than a so-called alarm which means liberals will be screaming all is going to hell.

Reply to  JohninRedding
October 6, 2017 6:39 pm

You inventory what you own. That way when a specimen shows up in someones house, you can lock them up. Look for this to show up later as lumber yards have to submit samples to have their stock cleared for retail.
Yet another layer of bureaucracy ultimately intended to drive up costs.

October 6, 2017 1:39 pm

“The human genome is made up of about 3 billion pairs of DNA base letters, which store all the genetic information needed to make a person. The Norway spruce genome was nearly seven times longer, at 20 billion base pairs. Putting its DNA in the right order was a technical challenge because the genome includes so many repetitive segments.”
Are we/they urinating up the wrong tree.

Reply to  u.k.(us)
October 6, 2017 5:52 pm

into the wind, actually.

Reply to  rocketscientist
October 6, 2017 6:27 pm

Yes, and no one is wearing rain gear.

October 6, 2017 1:41 pm

Rising temperatures in the boreal region are leading to degradation of permafrost, as well as more intense droughts and wildfires. Climate change is causing wildfires to burn more fiercely, pumping more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Dunno, One might think that if permafrost “melts” it would be more land for trees to grow.

Bob Burban
Reply to  Urederra
October 6, 2017 3:04 pm

Black spruce growing in permafrost looks stunted and scrawny, at best.

Gary Pearse
October 6, 2017 1:45 pm

Everything is ‘vulnerable’ to biologists. The tundra and taiga are vulnerable to advance of southerly forests for which these areas have already prepared a banquet. Maybe they are vulnerable to barcoding! Remember you guys killed off the golden toad of Costa Rica by reusing dirty gloves and equipment from the world wide search for the best frogs to use for human pregnancy kits. The deadly Chytrid fungus carried by a South African Toad was the smoking gun. Even though you tried to blame it on global warming!

Reply to  Gary Pearse
October 6, 2017 2:37 pm

I recall that corals were infected by researchers not cleaning equipment when moving between reefs.
Is that true?

Reply to  Yirgach
October 6, 2017 8:36 pm

The story was that frogs were being infected with chytridiomycosis by biologists blundering about. It’s not the sort of thing they would own up to or systematically investigate.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
October 7, 2017 4:23 am

i suspect the fast and intra state spread of the bats whitenose fungal disease is also due to the “scientists” going into caves that they usually left alone to hunt for the disease- actually spread it via their shoes and clothes etc.
it jumped vast distances very very fast

F. Leghorn
October 6, 2017 1:46 pm

Climate change is causing wildfires to burn more fiercely, pumping more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.”
Got it. Now carbon dioxide makes fires burn hotter. Insanity.

Reply to  F. Leghorn
October 6, 2017 2:08 pm

somewhere there’s a parent..paying a lot of money….for that kids education

Sweet Old Bob
Reply to  F. Leghorn
October 6, 2017 2:22 pm

But that is why it is used in extinguishers….it makes the fires go faster and faster and they run out of breath and collapse and die !
And fluorescent ” lights ” are really “dark ” suckers ….you can tell that they are full when they get black on the ends and stop working … 8>))

Janice Moore
Reply to  Sweet Old Bob
October 6, 2017 3:40 pm


October 6, 2017 2:16 pm

Are they gonna chip all the trees? Eh?

Reply to  gunsmithkat
October 6, 2017 5:54 pm

And then send the chips to the UK so they can power their lights.

Plain Jane
October 6, 2017 2:33 pm

I learned that whenever you get the word “monitoring” it means it is possible useless activity is going on. My father was employed as a technical officer doing “environmental monitoring” for over a decade in the 60’s and 70’s by a electricity utility. He acted with great diligence and a lot of personal hard extra work , massive amounts of unpaid overtime, to make sure the information he collected was of high quality. This information was supposed to “monitor” what was going on. Unfortunately once he collected it there really was not anyone to actually do anything with what was collected, so it was put in storage. The electricity authority worked with the universities to supposedly write up results, but that didnt usually result in anything other than brownie point papers for a few boffins. BUT “monitioring” had been said to be done. So over 10 yrs worth of water samples and benthic fauna samples and weather station records and plant samples was all stored in a lab until they rotted. He always knew that his diligent hard work was not followed up on, he kept his original field records at home in the hope that some day someone would be interested to write it all up. I had the task of taking it all to the tip after he died recently. So much for “monitoring”.

Janice Moore
Reply to  Plain Jane
October 6, 2017 3:55 pm

But, not “so much” for your dear dad, Jane.
I’m so sorry you’ve had to say, “good bye” to such a fine man. A mighty big tree fell “recently.” Only a few enjoyed its shade, gazed up into its branches, while it grew, silent and strong. One of those few was a little girl. Thanks to her, we have now heard the loud thump that only such a tree can make. And he will be remembered for what he was: an honest, true, scientist.

A tree is best measured when it is down—and so it is with people.

Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years
With deep sympathy — and admiration,

son of mulder
October 6, 2017 2:39 pm

Next thing they’ll want to barcode a herd of Zebras.

Moderately Cross of East Anglia
Reply to  son of mulder
October 6, 2017 3:18 pm

Hilarious thought, myopics everywhere will have a field day…

Reply to  Moderately Cross of East Anglia
October 7, 2017 12:30 pm

I call my zebra ‘Spot’.

John Bell
October 6, 2017 2:42 pm

Here, near Pontiac Michigan several areas have trees to which an aluminum coin is nailed with a number on it, I do not know what that is about.

Reply to  John Bell
October 6, 2017 2:58 pm

They do that to make a Blueprint map of the trees,add the numbers to it,sometimes they add GPS to it as well.

Reply to  John Bell
October 6, 2017 2:59 pm

I barcode all my cordwood when splitting and stacking.
Species, width and length are recorded.
Each log is rescanned upon entry into the combustion chamber.
I have 20 years of data but don’t know what to do with it…

Reply to  Yirgach
October 6, 2017 3:47 pm

Lol!, Yirgach! Very funny.

Reply to  John Bell
October 6, 2017 3:13 pm

The landscape architects/developers want to know the location and value of the trees.

October 6, 2017 2:49 pm

I recall that corals were infected by researchers not cleaning equipment when moving between reefs.
Is that true?

Reply to  Yirgach
October 6, 2017 2:52 pm

Dupe, sorry.

October 6, 2017 3:13 pm

How many trees are they going to barcode? How many trees would it take to provide green electricity to maintain and operate on that database? And, we don’t need to count the number of clerks, techs and Ph.D.’s this will support.

October 6, 2017 4:12 pm

Metabarcode DNA analysis seems to be that a model is going to be developed and deployed to ensure diversity of the forest biome. Where else have I seen the potential for immense failures in relying wholly upon a model to affirm “fact”? Hmm . . . . . .

October 6, 2017 4:20 pm

Where do I apply for a grant to teach beavers not to gnaw on the barcoded trees?

October 6, 2017 4:55 pm

Did biological monitoring, not ever impressed with some new latests and greatest technique. Generally it is someway of senior biologist avoiding doing field work. As for forest burning more often and more intensely, what that tells me as a past major land manager is that the land is not being properly managed not that warming climate is the problem. Just about every forest, except rainforest, regularly face fire or are even fire driven. In many forest, fire is very much a part of the ecosystem. When it is over controlled then fires burn more often and far more intensely causing environmental harm. A lot of the problems we hear about terrible wild fires is nothing more than the effects of suppressing fires in the area far too long. It can be done for what seem like legitimate reasons,e.g., homes in the area. In our state after a major wild fire year we found out that the reason two of our sister agencies didn’t do proper fire management is that they didn’t like holding public hearings before a controlled burn as required by rules their agencies helped draft.

Richard Patton
Reply to  Edwin
October 7, 2017 11:30 am

You may wish to qualify ‘rainforests’ to ‘tropical rainforests.’ Temperate rainforests can burn also, esp if in a cool Mediterranean climate as is the Mt. Hood National Forest (in Oregon). It receives well over 60″ of rain a year (the cutoff for rainforest), but the summers are quite dry. Two days before labor day this year a stupid kid threw a smoke bomb into the brush and set of a fire that within a week consumed 43,000 acres. This is in an area which was all ‘natural’ i.e. no logging or management because of steep slopes. If the kid hadn’t done it eventually a dry thunderstorm would have done it. Even Olympic National Park, which really gets the rain, occasionally sees wildfires.

October 6, 2017 6:04 pm

Does anyone have an idea how vast the Canadian boreal forest is? This general idea is daft.
Been canoing/fishing the lowest portions of the Algonquin, which is the lowest Boreal portion in Quebec.

Reply to  ristvan
October 6, 2017 6:12 pm

It’s smaller than the Pacific ocean, but bigger than Long Island. What’s your point?

Will R
Reply to  ristvan
October 7, 2017 6:24 pm

Umm, Ontario? Just drove past yesterday. Algonquin Park, I mean.

Intelligent Dasein
October 6, 2017 8:28 pm

This whole article was probably the result of a mondegreen. What they really meant to say is that the trees are “bark-coated.” Researchers at the University of Guelph have recently discovered that bark is very good for trees. They are also rumored to have a theory on the brontosaurus…

Wayne Townsend
October 6, 2017 9:04 pm

so, we have scientist tromping through forests, some of which have diseased trees, touching all the trees to put barcodes on them.
Seems to me we have done something similar with frogs (minus the barcodes) spreading disease and decimating populations and then blaming it on Global Warming/Climate Change/(fill in most recent verbiage).

October 6, 2017 9:16 pm

‘The study calls metabarcoding “a potentially transformative approach to biomonitoring, biodiversity discovery and ecosystem health assessments.”’
I have been waiting all my life for such a tranformative approach beyond your everyday approaches. God bless these comedians at UoG. They are better than “The Onion”.

Reply to  Gladys Knight
October 6, 2017 9:25 pm

But I must admit I don’t know what the hell they are talking about. Making a soup from all the DNA in a forest?

Reply to  Gladys Knight
October 6, 2017 11:19 pm

BS baffles brains?

Reply to  Gladys Knight
October 7, 2017 12:34 pm

The Romans – of the Roman Warm Period – had a phrase for that:
Excretio taurii confusit cerebellii

Mark - Helsinki
October 7, 2017 1:30 am

What an epic waste of money and resources

Mark - Helsinki
October 7, 2017 1:31 am

Mind you Canada is teaching 4 year olds that they can be any gender they want.
I wouldn’t live there if you paid me to

Peta of Newark
October 7, 2017 2:43 am

Such fine & lofty words, high ideals, principles and good intentions.
Just like missionaries of old, boldly going in search of ‘lost’ tribes to dispense religion and civilisation.
Along with disease, alcohol, guns, trash TV and sugar. It simply never occurred that those ‘lost’ tribes might actually be ‘lost’ for a very good reason.
Ever wonder why ‘David’ is a popular/common name in China?
Yeah, they caught the business end of ‘missionary’ alright.
So, they find something ‘wrong’ with the forest.
(Lets re-phrase that, will they find anything ‘right’ about the hapless forest?)
We know they wont and of course the usual standard fix will be to ‘skyrocket electricity prices’
This of course raises general all round resource consumption and the poor old trees will bear the brunt, or burnt as happens to 20,000 tonnes of them, daily, inside Drax power station.
Deep deep deep reason why they’re going in there?
They are scared shitless by the forest. They need to dominate and control it to allay their (all in the head) fear of the thing. And masses of equally frightened & scared people, passing the buck, are egging them on.
And what sort of people/brains/minds frighten, scare and panic easily?
Chronically depressed ones. Those that are artificially chemically disabled.
Not especially despondent ones.
By example: You don’t get arrested for DUI because you are despondent or sad about something. You become unfit to drive because you are chemically depressed. Yeah?
Sugar and carbs do the same as alcohol, its just that alcohol is faster acting and more potent.
We have an epidemic on our hands, a nearly global outbreak of muddle headed stupidity – because of our chosen diet.

October 7, 2017 4:29 am

sampling water biota and saying its going to show tree health?
drawing a damned long bow to my mind.

Reasonable Skeptic
October 7, 2017 9:34 am

Protecting a vulnerable biome… so much more important than protecting just a normal biome.

Samuel C Cogar
October 7, 2017 9:51 am

Excerpted from article:

The Boreal forest is essential to Canada and the world, storing carbon, purifying water and air and regulating climate. But keeping tabs on the health of this vulnerable biome has proven to be a painstaking and time-consuming undertaking – until now.

Just as soon as they complete their “barcoding” of the Canadian Boreal forest ……. they can start their “barcoding” of the Northern European and Russian Boreal forest …… with the job being completed by their great grandchildren.

October 7, 2017 10:16 am

Comes under the heading “they cannot possible be that stupid” but this day and age they are, worst part the get the soapbox to preach on.

Richard Patton
October 8, 2017 3:03 pm

I tried googling to find out what Metabarcoding was and the only results were from these guys with no explanation of what it was only what they said it could help do. For all the information they present they could be talking about using Easter Bunnies

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