Barcode project puts Wales Number 1 in the world

Wales has become the first country in the world to DNA barcode all its flowering plants.

This scientific breakthrough opens up huge potential for the future of plant conservation and human health.

The work to make Wales No 1 in the world was carried out at the National Botanic Garden in collaboration with Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales and project partners from various universities. 

The Barcode Wales project, led by the National Botanic Garden’s Head of Conservation and Research Dr Natasha de Vere, has created a reference database of DNA barcodes based on the 1143 native flowering plants and conifers of Wales, assembling over 5700 DNA barcodes.

Plants can now be identified from pollen grains, fragments of seed or roots, wood, dung, stomach contents or environmental samples collected from the air, soil or water. 

Dr de Vere explained the importance of the project: “Wales is now in the unique position of being able to identify plant species from materials which in the past would have been incredibly difficult or impossible. Through the Barcode Wales project, we have created a powerful platform for a broad range of research from biodiversity conservation to human health”.

Dr Tim Rich said: “We have taken DNA samples from thousands of specimens in the National Museum’s collections. This technique opens up a whole new set of uses for our collections.”

DNA barcodes are short sequences of DNA which are unique to each species and can be used to identify plant species from tiny fragments of plant material. They have a whole range of applications from conserving rare species to developing new drugs.  

The Welsh flora DNA barcodes are freely available on the Barcode of Life Database (BOLD) for use by researchers throughout the world. The creation of this DNA barcode library is reported in the journal PLoS ONE  http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0037945

The National Botanic Garden receives funding from the Welsh Government for its scientific research and educational work promoting science-based activities.

Housing Regeneration and Heritage Minister, Huw Lewis said:  “I am delighted the Garden has achieved a significant world first. Welsh Government funding is helping the Garden provide the people of Wales with an institution dedicated to biodiversity and sustainability and it has now put Wales on the world stage in plant sciences research.  Congratulations to Natasha and her team.”

Professor John Harries, Chief Scientific Adviser for Wales, congratulated the team responsible for this achievement: “This is a really significant project that will help highlight and promote the expertise in Wales. The Garden is gaining a strong international reputation as a centre for plant sciences research, and is playing a key role in supporting and training the next generation of plant scientists, which is great news for Wales.”

Dr de Vere paid tribute to Garden staff and volunteers, Dr Tim Rich of the National Museum Wales and the project partners Aberystwyth University, Glamorgan University, University of the West of England, the Botanical Society of the British Isles, and High Performance Computing (HPC) Wales.

 

Barcodes and the battle against disease

The National Botanic Garden of Wales is already collaborating with partners throughout the UK on DNA barcoding applications.

PhD student Jenny Hawkins is working on a joint project between the Garden and the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Cardiff University to DNA barcode honey for drug discovery.

Jenny has collected honey from throughout the UK and is testing its ability to kill the hospital acquired infections, MRSA and Clostridium difficile, she will then DNA barcode the honey to find out what plants the bees visited to make it.

Said Jenny: “We know some of the medicinal properties of honey come from the plants the bees visit. By DNA barcoding the honey, we are looking for links between honey with good medicinal properties and particular plant species. If we find it, we might be able to make a super honey by allowing bees to forage on plants that provide high antibacterial properties.”

Barcodes and the fate of pollinators

DNA barcoding may also be able to help in the crisis facing our pollinators. Dr de Vere is working with PhD student Andrew Lucas from the Swansea Ecology Research Team (SERT) at Swansea University to investigate the role that hoverflies play in pollination.

Andrew says: “Hoverflies play a key role in pollination but we know very little about their behaviour. My research will collect hoverflies and find out where they go by DNA barcoding the pollen carried on their bodies. We are interested in how hoverflies move through the landscape and the importance of habitat quality.”

This work builds on a project with Aberystwyth University that examined bee pollination within species rich grasslands.

Barcoding the rest of the UK

The Barcode Wales team is now joining forces with more partners to DNA barcode the rest of the UK native and alien flora. The National Botanic Garden of Wales, Amgueddfa Cymru and University of Glamorgan are joining teams from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh led by Prof Pete Hollingsworth and Imperial College and Royal Botanic Gardens Kew led by Prof Vincent Savolainen.

For further information please contact Dr Dan Forman 01792 295445 or email D.W.forman@swan.ac.uk

 

Prosiect cod bar yn rhoi Cymru ar flaen y gad

Cymru yw’r wlad gyntaf yn y byd i roi cod bar DNA i’w planhigion blodeuol.

Mae’r garreg filltir wyddonol hon yn agor llu o bosibiliadau ar gyfer dyfodol cadwraeth planhigion ac iechyd dynol.

Cyflawnwyd y gwaith hwn o osod Cymru ar flaen y gad yn yr Ardd Fotaneg Genedlaethol mewn cydweithrediad ag Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Cymru, a phartneriaid o amryfal brifysgolion.

Mae prosiect Cod Bar Cymru a arweiniwyd gan Dr Natasha de Vere, Pennaeth Cadwraeth ac Ymchwil yr Ardd Fotaneg Genedlaethol, wedi creu cronfa ddata o godau bar DNA sy’n seiliedig ar 1143 o blanhigion blodeuol a chonifferau cynhenid Cymru. Mae’r gwaith hwn wedi cynnwys trefnu dros 5700 o godau bar DNA.

Nawr mae modd adnabod planhigion o ronynnau paill, darnau o hadau neu wreiddiau, pren, tail, cynnwys stumogau neu samplau amgylcheddol a gasglwyd o’r aer, pridd neu ddwr.

Esboniodd Dr de Vere bwysigrwydd y prosiect: “Mae Cymru yn awr mewn sefyllfa unigryw gan ei bod yn gallu adnabod rhywogaethau o blanhigion o ddeunyddiau, techneg a fyddai wedi bod yn hynod o anodd neu amhosibl i’w gwneud yn y gorffennol. Trwy brosiect Cod Bar Cymru, rydyn ni wedi creu llwyfan pwerus ar gyfer ystod eang o ymchwil sy’n amrywio o gadwraeth bioamrywiaeth i iechyd dynol”.

Dywedodd Dr Tim Rich: “Rydyn ni wedi cymryd samplau DNA o filoedd o sbesimenau yn Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Cymru. Mae’r dechneg hon yn ein caniatáu ni i ddefnyddio ein casgliadau mewn amryw o ffyrdd newydd.”

Mae codau bar DNA yn ddilyniannau byr o DNA sy’n unigryw i bob rhywogaeth a gellir eu defnyddio i adnabod rhywogaethau o blanhigion o’r darnau lleiaf o blanhigion. Mae ganddynt ystod eang o ddefnyddiau sy’n amrywio o gadwraeth rhywogaethau prin i ddatblygu cyffuriau newydd.

Mae codau bar DNA blodau Cymru ar gael am ddim ar Gronfa Data Cod Bar Bywyd (BOLD) i ymchwilwyr ar draws y byd. Gallwch ddarllen am greadigaeth y llyfrgell cod bar DNA hon yn y cylchgrawn PloS ONE  http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0037945

Mae Gardd Fotaneg Genedlaethol yn derbyn cyllid gan Lywodraeth Cymru am ei ymchwil wyddonol a gwaith addysgol sy'n seiliedig ar weithgareddau hyrwyddo gwyddoniaeth.

Dywedodd Huw Lewis, Gweinidog dros Adfywio Tai a'r Dreftadaeth: "Rwyf wrth fy modd i weld taw’r Ardd yw’r cyntaf i gyflawni hyn.  Mae cyllid Llywodraeth Cymru yn helpu’r Ardd i ddarparu i bobl Cymru gyda sefydliad sy'n ymroddedig i fioamrywiaeth a chynaliadwyedd, ac erbyn hyn mae wedi rhoi Cymru ar lwyfan y byd ym maes ymchwil gwyddorau planhigion. Llongyfarchiadau i Natasha a'i thîm.

Llongyfarchodd yr Athro John Harries, Prif Gynghorydd Gwyddonol Cymru, y tîm sy'n gyfrifol am y llwyddiant hwn:  “Mae hwn yn brosiect hynod o sylweddol a fydd yn helpu i amlygu a hyrwyddo arbenigedd yng Nghymru. Mae'r Ardd yn ennill enw da rhyngwladol cryf fel canolfan ar gyfer ymchwil gwyddorau planhigion, ac yn chwarae rhan allweddol wrth gefnogi a hyfforddi'r genhedlaeth nesaf o wyddonwyr planhigion, sy'n newyddion gwych i Gymru. "

Roedd Dr de Vere wedi talu teyrnged i waith staff a gwirfoddolwyr yr Ardd, Dr Tim Rich o Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Cymru a’r partneriaid sef Prifysgol Aberystwyth, Prifysgol Morgannwg, Prifysgol Gorllewin Lloegr, Cymdeithas Fotanegol Ynysoedd Prydain a Chyfrifiadureg Perfformiad Uchel Cymru (HPC Cymru).