Thesis: The genetic diversity, essential oil composition and physiological factors controlling the biosynthesis of sesquiterpenoids in Western Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicatum)
My aim is to increase the marketability of Santalum spicatum through improved tree selection and silviculture strategies, achieved by enhanced knowledge of heartwood oil composition and yield variation, genetic diversity of natural populations, further elucidating the oil biosynthetic pathway and development of genetic markers for assistance in selection of germplasm.
This research seeks to further the understanding of physiological factors involved in essential oil biosynthesis of S. spicatum. Genes and enzymes encoding sesquiterpenoid biosynthesis will be identified and characterised using modern molecular techniques with the long term aim of gaining insight into oil and heartwood production. Results achieved can be applied to the development of genetic markers to assist in selection programs and improved management of current genetic resources. These breeding strategies will also reduce pressure off natural populations and ensure a sustainable supply of sandalwood in the future.
Why my research is important
There is a need to improve research on S. spicatum and management of plantations. Sandalwood is a major forest industry and the essential oil contained in the heartwood comprises one of the most sought after fragrance components, the santalols. Sandalwood is used throughout the world for carvings and joss sticks and the essential oil is used in perfumery, medicine and aromatherapy.
Plantations alleviate pressure from natural populations and since sandalwood has ecological and historical ties to Australian culture, conservation efforts of this species remain important. Western Australian sandalwood is currently harvested from natural stands and due to past exploitation combined with slow regeneration, habitat loss, grazing and illegal poaching, widespread concern has been raised over the future survival of this species. Information of the genetic variation and determination of genetic relationships between individuals and populations of sandalwood in W.A will be applied to sustainable management and future conservation of this species.