Alignment-free genome comparison enables accurate geographic sourcing of white oak DNA.


The application of genomic data and bioinformatics for the identification of restricted or illegally-sourced natural products is urgently needed. The taxonomic identity and geographic provenance of raw and processed materials have implications in sustainable-use commercial practices, and relevance to the enforcement of laws that regulate or restrict illegally harvested materials, such as timber. Improvements in genomics make it possible to capture and sequence partial-to-complete genomes from challenging tissues, such as wood and wood products.

In this paper, we report the success of an alignment-free genome comparison method, [Formula: see text] that differentiates different geographic sources of white oak (Quercus) species with a high level of accuracy with very small amount of genomic data. The method is robust to sequencing errors, different sequencing laboratories and sequencing platforms.

This method offers an approach based on genome-scale data, rather than panels of pre-selected markers for specific taxa. The method provides a generalizable platform for the identification and sourcing of materials using a unified next generation sequencing and analysis framework.

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