Development of molecular markers for determining continental origin of wood from white oaks (Quercus L. sect. Quercus)
To detect and avoid illegal logging of valuable tree species, identification methods for the origin of timber are necessary. We used next-generation sequencing to identify chloroplast genome regions that differentiate the origin of white oaks from the three continents; Asia, Europe, and North America. By using the chloroplast genome of Asian Q. mongolica as a reference, we identified 861 variant sites (672 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs); 189 insertion/deletion (indel) polymorphism) from representative species of three continents (Q. mongolica from Asia; Q. petraea and Q. robur from Europe; Q. alba from North America), and we identified additional chloroplast polymorphisms in pools of 20 individuals each from Q. mongolica (789 variant sites) and Q. robur (346 variant sites). Genome sequences were screened for insertion/deletion (indel) polymorphisms to develop markers that identify continental origin of oak species, and that can be easily evaluated using a variety of detection methods. We identified five indel and one SNP that reliably identify continent-of-origin, based on evaluations of up to 1078 individuals representing 13 white oak species and three continents. Due to the size of length polymorphisms revealed, this marker set can be visualized using capillary electrophoresis or high resolution gel (acrylamide or agarose) electrophoresis. With these markers, we provide the wood trading market with an instrument to comply with the U.S. and European laws that require timber companies to avoid the trade of illegally harvested timber.