Forest genetic resources

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Forest genetic resources or foresttree genetic resources are genetic resources (i.e., genetic material of actual or future value) of forest shrub and tree species. [1] Forest genetic resources are essential for forest-depending communities who rely for a substantial part of their livelihoods on timber and non-timber forest products (for example fruits, gums and resins) for food security, domestic use and income generation. These resources are also the basis for large-scale wood production in planted forests to satisfy the worldwide need for timber and paper. Genetic resources of several important timber, fruit and other non-timber tree species are conserved ex situ in genebanks or maintained in field collections. Nevertheless, in situ conservation in forests and on farms is in the case of most tree species the most important measure to protect their genetic resources.


Understanding diversity

A better understanding of the diversity of these species is crucial for their sustainable use and conservation. [2] Monitoring patterns of distribution and genetic diversity of these species allows the prioritization of populations for in situ conservation, identification of populations and species most at risk and existing gaps in genebank collections. [3] This is vital information which helps tackle global challenges such as food security and climate change.

The State of the World's Forest Genetic Resources

In 2014, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations published the first State of the World's Forest Genetic Resources. [4] [5] [6] The publication addressed the conservation, management and sustainable use of forest tree and other woody plant genetic resources of actual and potential value for human well-being in the broad range of management systems. It was prepared based on information provided by 86 countries, outcomes from regional and subregional consultations, and commissioned thematic studies. Amongst the ten key findings, half of the forest species reported as regularly utilized by countries are threatened by the conversion of forests to pastures and farmland, overexploitation, and the impacts of climate change. [7]

On the basis of the information and knowledge compiled by FAO for The State of World’s Forest Genetic Resources, the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture developed the Global Plan of Action for the Conservation, Sustainable Use and Development of Forest Genetic Resources. [8] This Global Plan of Action identifies 27 strategic priorities grouped into 4 areas: 1) improving the availability of, and access to, information on forest genetic resources; 2) conservation of forest genetic resources (in situ and ex situ); 3) sustainable use, development and management of forest genetic resources; 4) policies, institutions and capacity-building.

Forest genetic resources and climate change

Even though this is a field with many uncertainties, it is evident that during the next 50–100 years climate changes will have an effect on the distribution of forest tree species and the composition of forests. Diversity of forest genetic resources enables the potential for a species (or a population) to adapt to climatic changes and related future challenges such as temperature changes, drought, pests, diseases and forest fires. [9] Though forest trees are known for showing great plasticity in their response to climate changes, [10] not all species are naturally capable to adapt at the pace necessary. For that reason human interventions, such as transfer of forest reproductive material, may be needed. This is particular important for rare and scattered distributed species and species found on the edge of its distribution range. [9]

See also

Related Research Articles

Forestry Science and craft of managing woodlands

Forestry is the science and craft of creating, managing, planting, using, conserving and repairing forests, woodlands, and associated resources for human and environmental benefits. Forestry is practiced in plantations and natural stands. The science of forestry has elements that belong to the biological, physical, social, political and managerial sciences. Forest management play essential role of creation and modification of habitats and affect ecosystem services provisioning.

This is an index of conservation topics. It is an alphabetical index of articles relating to conservation biology and conservation of the natural environment.

Seed bank Backup seed storage

A seed bank stores seeds to preserve genetic diversity; hence it is a type of gene bank. There are many reasons to store seeds. One is to preserve the genes that plant breeders need to increase yield, disease resistance, drought tolerance, nutritional quality, taste, etc. of crops. Another is to forestall loss of genetic diversity in rare or imperiled plant species in an effort to conserve biodiversity ex situ. Many plants that were used centuries ago by humans are used less frequently now; seed banks offer a way to preserve that historical and cultural value. Collections of seeds stored at constant low temperature and low moisture are guarded against loss of genetic resources that are otherwise maintained in situ or in field collections. These alternative "living" collections can be damaged by natural disasters, outbreaks of disease, or war. Seed banks are considered seed libraries, containing valuable information about evolved strategies to combat plant stress, and can be used to create genetically modified versions of existing seeds. The work of seed banks often span decades and even centuries. Most seed banks are publicly funded and seeds are usually available for research that benefits the public.

The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, is a comprehensive international agreement in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity, which aims at guaranteeing food security through the conservation, exchange and sustainable use of the world's plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA), the fair and equitable benefit sharing arising from its use, as well as the recognition of farmers' rights. It was signed in 2001 in Madrid, and entered into force on 29 June 2004.

<i>Ex situ</i> conservation

Ex situ conservation literally means, "off-site conservation". It is the process of protecting an endangered species, variety or breed, of plant or animal outside its natural habitat; for example, by removing part of the population from a threatened habitat and placing it in a new location, an artificial environment which is similar to the natural habitat of the respective animal and within the care of humans, example are zoological parks and wildlife safaris. The degree to which humans control or modify the natural dynamics of the managed population varies widely, and this may include alteration of living environments, reproductive patterns, access to resources, and protection from predation and mortality. Ex situ management can occur within or outside a species' natural geographic range. Individuals maintained ex situ exist outside an ecological niche. This means that they are not under the same selection pressures as wild populations, and they may undergo artificial selection if maintained ex situ for multiple generations.

In-situ conservation is the on-site conservation or the conservation of genetic resources in natural populations of plant or animal species, such as forest genetic resources in natural populations of Teagan species. This process protects the inhabitants and ensures the sustainability of the environment and ecosystem.

Agricultural biodiversity

Agricultural biodiversity or agrobiodiversity is a subset of general biodiversity pertaining to agriculture. It can be defined as "the variety and variability of animals, plants and micro-organisms at the genetic, species and ecosystem levels that sustain the ecosystem structures, functions and processes in and around production systems, and that provide food and non-food agricultural products.” It is managed by farmers, pastoralists, fishers and forest dwellers, agrobiodiversity provides stability, adaptability and resilience and constitutes a key element of the livelihood strategies of rural communities throughout the world. Agrobiodiversity is central to sustainable food systems and sustainable diets. The use of agricultural biodiversity can contribute to food security, nutrition security, and livelihood security, and it is critical for climate adaptation and climate mitigation.

Gene banks are a type of biorepository that preserves genetic material. For plants, this is done by in vitro storage, freezing cuttings from the plant, or stocking the seeds. For animals, this is done by the freezing of sperm and eggs in zoological freezers until further need. With corals, fragments are taken and stored in water tanks under controlled conditions. Genetic material in a 'gene bank' is preserved in a variety of ways, such as freezing at -196° Celsius in liquid nitrogen, being placed in artificial ecosystems, and put in controlled nutrient mediums.

Sustainable forest management Management of forests according to the principles of sustainable development

Sustainable forest management (SFM) is the management of forests according to the principles of sustainable development. Sustainable forest management has to keep the balance between three main pillars: ecological, economic and socio-cultural. Sustainable forestry can seem contradicting to some individuals as the act of logging trees is not sustainable. However, the goal of sustainable forestry is to allow for a balance to be found between ethical forestry and maintaining biodiversity through the means of maintaining natural patterns of disturbance and regeneration. Successfully achieving sustainable forest management will provide integrated benefits to all, ranging from safeguarding local livelihoods to protecting biodiversity and ecosystems provided by forests, reducing rural poverty and mitigating some of the effects of climate change. Forest conservation is essential to stop climate change.

Crop Trust

The Crop Trust, officially known as the Global Crop Diversity Trust, is an international nonprofit organization with a secretariat in Bonn, Germany. Its mission is to conserve and make available the world's crop diversity for food security.

Forest management is a branch of forestry concerned with overall administrative, legal, economic, and social aspects, as well as scientific and technical aspects, such as silviculture, protection, and forest regulation. This includes management for timber, aesthetics, recreation, urban values, water, wildlife, inland and nearshore fisheries, wood products, plant genetic resources, and other forest resource values. Management objectives can be for conservation, utilisation, or a mixture of the two. Techniques include timber extraction, planting and replanting of different species, building and maintenance of roads and pathways through forests, and preventing fire.

Bioversity International

Bioversity International is a global research-for-development organization that delivers scientific evidence, management practices and policy options to use and safeguard agricultural biodiversity to attain global food and nutrition security, working with partners in low-income countries in different regions where agricultural biodiversity can contribute to improved nutrition, resilience, productivity and climate change adaptation.

Crop wild relative

A crop wild relative (CWR) is a wild plant closely related to a domesticated plant. It may be a wild ancestor of the domesticated (cultivated) plant, or another closely related taxon.

Crop diversity or crop biodiversity is the variety and variability of crops, plants used in agriculture, including their genetic and phenotypic characteristics. It is a subset of and a specific element of agricultural biodiversity. Over the past 50 years, there has been a major decline in two components of crop diversity; genetic diversity within each crop and the number of species commonly grown.

The Seed Savers' Network (SSN) is an Australian not-for-profit organisation, based in Byron Bay, New South Wales. Since 1986, SSN has organised gardeners and farmers to collect, multiply and redistribute garden seeds in Australia and also within peasant organisations worldwide.

The Nordic Genetic Resource Center is a plant, farm animal and forest conservation, gene resource guardian, and sustainable use organization under and primarily financed by the Nordic Council of Ministers, and is headquartered in Alnarp, near Malmö, in southern Sweden. NordGen's primary mission is "securing the broad diversity of genetic resources linked to food and agriculture" through "conservation and sustainable use, solid documentation and information work and international agreements".

Animal genetic resources for food and agriculture

Animal genetic resources for food and agriculture (AnGR), also known as farm animal genetic resources or livestock biodiversity, are genetic resources of avian and mammalian species, which are used for food and agriculture purposes. AnGR is a subset of and a specific element of agricultural biodiversity.

Forest reproductive material

Forest reproductive material is a part of a tree that can be used for reproduction such as seed, cutting or seedling. Artificial regeneration, carried out through seeding or planting, typically involves transferring forest reproductive material to a particular site from other locations while natural regeneration relies on genetic material that is already available on the site.

Plant genetic resources describe the variability within plants that comes from human and natural selection over millennia. Their intrinsic value mainly concerns agricultural crops.

The Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is an intergovernmental body that addresses issues specifically related to the management of biodiversity of relevance to food and agriculture. It was established in 1983 as the Commission on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. In 1995, the mandate of the Commission was extended to cover all components of biodiversity for food and agriculture and its name was changed to its current version. Its membership comprises 178 countries and the European Union.


  1. The Fridtjof Nansen Institute (FNI), Oslo, Norway. "The concept of "genetic resources" in the Convention on Biological Diversity and how it relates to a functional international regime on Access and Benefit-Sharing" (PDF).{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. Dawson, I.K.; Lengkeek, A.; Weber, J.C.; Jamnadass, R. (2009). "Managing genetic variation in tropical trees: linking knowledge with action in agroforestry ecosystems for improved conservation and enhanced livelihoods". Biodiversity and Conservation. 18 (4): 969–986. doi:10.1007/s10531-008-9516-z. S2CID   299734.
  3. Scheldeman, X.; van Zonneveld, M. (2010). Training Manual on Spatial Analysis of Plant Diversity and Distribution. Bioversity International.
  4. "UN urges action to protect forests' genetic diversity". BBC News Science and Environment. BBC. 5 June 2014. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  5. The State of the World's Forest Genetic Resources (PDF). Rome: FAO. 2014.
  6. "Action needed to safeguard genetic diversity of the world's forests". FAO. 3 June 2014. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  7. "Redassranch Agriculture, gardening and forestry resources". Archived from the original on March 17, 2016. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  8. Global Plan of Action for the conservation, sustainable use and development of forest genetic resources (PDF). Rome: FAO. 2014.
  9. 1 2 Kelleher; et al. (2015), Approaches to the conservation of forest genetic resources in Europe in the context of climate change, European Forest Genetic Resources Programme
  10. Savolainen; et al. (2011). "Adaptive Potential of Northernmost Tree Populations to Climate Change, with Emphasis on Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris L.)". Journal of Heredity. 102 (5): 526–36. doi: 10.1093/jhered/esr056 . PMID   21715569.