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The recently held 11th Session of the FAO Panel of Experts on Forest Gene Resources, reported on in the present issue of Forest Genetic Resources, reviewed work carried out since the previous Session of the Panel (see Forest Genetic Resources 25, 1997), discussed priorities for action and made recommendations on future focus of FAO's activities. The Panel emphasized the need for FAO to continue to promote, support and help coordinate action at international level. Noting the contribution to human welfare, rural development and alleviation of hunger and poverty that work in forest genetic resources could provide, the Panel stressed the need for FAO to help ensure that technically and scientifically sound information was available to relevant fora, and thus help promote the integration of forest genetic resources considerations into programmes contributing to sustainable resource use and overall national development.

The Panel noted that funding in forest genetics was increasingly diverted towards the development of molecular methods, while support for basic biological studies and tree improvement was frequently inadequate or provided on a short-term basis. It was stressed that modern biotechnologies were of value only when used as tools within the framework of sound conservation and breeding programmes. The article on the applications for microsatellites in this issue of Forest Genetic Resources provides an example of the potential which modern technologies offer for contributing to the sustained development of forestry.

The outcome of the FAO coordinated workshop on forest genetic resources in dry-zone sub-Saharan (Sahelian) Africa was reported upon in the previous issue of Forest Genetic Resources. The workshop was the first in a series of meetings aimed at the development of regional action plans for the conservation, management and sustainable utilization of these valuable resources. In a paper authored by IPGRI colleagues, the new SAFORGEN regional programme on forest genetic resources in Sub-Saharan Africa is described; the programme, once fully operational, has the potential to assist Sahelian countries in implementing the research-related components of the sub-regional action plan. Information is also provided on the main results and achievements of a similar workshop organized with countries and territories in the South Pacific in April 1999. Since 1992, a network of national tree seed centres has operated in the framework of the Southern Africa Development Community. The work of these centres will provide a solid basis for the identification of priority issues in the extended field of forest genetic resources, to be addressed during a forest genetic resources workshop for SADC countries planned in the first half of the year 2000.

The present issue of Forest Genetic Resources contains, in addition, articles on conservation and tree improvement strategies implemented for a number of temperate, sub-tropical and tropical species. An article marking the 30th anniversary of tree improvement activities in Cuba includes, in addition to a summary of programmes, a large number of references to relevant literature. Papers on IPGRI/EUFORGEN coordinated activities in conservation of "noble hardwoods" in Europe, work on native and introduced poplars in North China, and latest developments of the CAMCORE cooperative programme, provide good examples of the potential benefits of how networking and information sharing can help strengthen activities of common interest to a number of countries.

We hope that our readers will find the present issue of interest. Contributions and brief articles for inclusion in future issues are welcome. These should generally not exceed 2 000 words. The Secretariat maintains the right to edit material accepted for publication. Please address correspondence to:

Forest Resources Development Service
Forest Resources Division
FAO of the UN
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
I-00100 Rome, Italy
Fax: (39) 06 5705.5137
E-mail: [email protected]

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