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The FAO Panel of Experts on Forest Gene Resources was established in accordance with the directives of the Fourteenth Session of the FAO Conference (November 1967), which read as follows:

“244. Forest Tree Genetic Resources. The Conference requested the Director-General to take into account Recommendation No. 62 of document C 67/AG/FO/1 in formulating the Programme of Work and Budget for 1970–1971. It recognized that as development proceeds in the less as in the more advanced areas of the world, the reserves of genetic variation stored in the natural forests have been or are being displaced on an increasing scale. Moreover, efforts to explore and collect forest genetic resources were, on a world scale, inadequate and inadequately concerted.

245. The Conference requested the Director-General to establish a panel of experts on Forest Gene Resources to help plan and coordinate FAO's efforts to explore, utilize and conserve the gene resources of forest trees and, in particular, help prepare a detailed short-term programme and draft a long-term programme for FAO's action in this field and to provide information to Member Governments.”

The Director-General established the Panel in 1968. A list of current members of the Panel appears in Appendix 1.

The Panel held its first session in Rome in October 1968, its second in Macon, Georgia in March 1971, its third in Rome, Italy in May 1974, and its fourth in Canberra, Australia in March 1977. Reports of these sessions have been published (FAO 1969, FAO 1972, FAO 1974, FAO 1977).

The fifth session of the Panel was held in Rome, Italy from 8–11 December 1981. Members attending were:

R. Morandini (Chairman, Italy)
F. Ng (Vice-Chairman, Malaysia)
M. Corbasson (France)
M. Ferreira (Brazil)
R. C. Ghosh (India)
M. Hagman (Finland)
H. Keiding (Denmark)
R. H. Kemp (U.K.)
O. Ochoa M. (Honduras)
J. A. Odera (Kenya)
G. O. A. Ojo (Nigeria)
Pan Chih-Kang (O,D.R. China)
F. Patiño V. (Mexico)
J.W. Turnbull (Australia)
C. W. Yeatman (Canada)

T. E. Beskok (UNEP) and L. Naviglio (IUCN) attended in an observer capacity.

C. Palmberg (FAO) acted as Secretary of the Panel. Other FAO staff who attended parts of the session were J. Prats Llauradó, J. P. Lanly and G. Child of the Forest Resources Division, N.M. Anishetty of the Plant Production and Protection Division/IBPGR Secretariat, and K. Thelen of the Environment Programme Coordinating Unit (AGRE).

The Panel unanimously elected Professor R. Morandini as Chairman and Dr. F. Ng as Vice-Chairman. The agenda adopted appears in Appendix 2.


A. General

1. To International and Bilateral Aid Organizations

(1) The Panel recommended that the sum of US$ 93 000, which it was expected would be available for seed procurement in the Regular Programme of FAO's Forestry Department in 1982/83, should be distributed as shown in Appendix 3. The recommended allocations would assist 17 collecting institutes working in Asia/Australia, 4 in Latin America, 3 in Africa and one in North America. The Panel noted with some regret that the sum expected for 1982/83 was slightly less than that available for 1980/81. Over two thirds of the allocations will be for arid/semi-arid zone multipurpose species.

(2) The Panel stressed the need for it to maintain its advisory responsibilities for the central direction and coordination of FAO's Programme on Forest Genetic Resources. Apart from its direct value, this Programme acts as a catalyst to other programmes financed by Governments and other international or bilateral aid agencies, providing both a stimulus and a source of technical information.

(3) The Panel emphasized the value of “Forest Genetic Resources Information” and recommended that FAO continue to publish it periodically in English, French and Spanish.

(4) The Panel noted that the rate of loss or impoverishment of forest genetic resources continues to increase and that actions to explore, evaluate and conserve these resources are still wholly inadequate. Increased action by FAO on forest genetic resources in the tropics would be a logical follow-up to the FAO/UNEP survey of Tropical Forest Resources. The Panel recommended that, in view of the urgency of the situation, Forest Genetic Resources should be tabled as a major item for discussion at COFO. Not only are additional funds needed, either from the Regular Programme or from external funding, for operations in the field, but there is an urgent need for appropriate strengthening of the FAO Secretariat responsible for coordinating the programme. This would facilitate the most effective use of opportunities for the collection of information and research material essential for the proper exploration, evaluation, conservation and utilization of forest genetic resources. The single post now covering both Forest Genetic Resources and Tree Improvement does not reflect the great increase in scope and responsibilities which has taken place over the last decade.

(5) The Panel warmly welcomed the extension of the FAO/IBPGR Project on Genetic Resources of Arid/Semi-arid Zone Tree Species for the Improvement of Rural Living. It recommended that consideration be given to including a wider range of species and provenances in this project e.g. many Casuarina species have great potential and merit priority. It also recommended that more attention be paid to the extensive areas of cold deserts which occur e.g. in Central Asia, India and Pakistan. Little is known about the species in these areas and action is urgently needed to explore, evaluate and conserve their genetic resources.

(6) The Panel welcomed recent instances of aid agencies rendering financial and technical support to the establishment of forest seed centres in developing countries. It recommended that these agencies should, on request, give favourable consideration to continued support of existing seed centres and of the establishment of new ones.

(7) The Panel recommended that FAO's Forestry Department continue to maintain close liaison with IUCN, Unesco (especially its MAB 8 programme) and UNEP in all activities concerned with in situ conservation.

(8) The Panel, noting the benefits obtained by FAO's North American Forestry Commission from its use of Study Groups, notably the Study Group on Forest Tree Improvement, recommended that other FAO Regional Forestry Commissions give consideration to the formation of similar Study Groups on the exploration, conservation and improvement of forest genetic resources. Such Study Groups can ensure rapid exchange of technical information and regional coordination of national research programmes.

2. To Governments

(1) The Panel expressed its warm appreciation of the cooperation extended by many forest services and forest seed centres, in making seeds freely available for international trials (see Appendices 3 and 4). In the past such cooperation has come mainly from countries in the humid tropics, but there is now a welcome increase in cooperative programmes in the arid and semi-arid zones.

(2) The Panel expressed its warm appreciation of the various programmes of international seed procurement, exploration, collection and evaluation of forest genetic resources conducted by the Governments of Australia (through Division of Forest Research, CSIRO), Denmark (through DANIDA Forest Seed Centre), France (through CTFT) and UK (through CFI, Oxford). The Panel expressed the hope that these Governments would continue and, if possible, expand their efforts in this field.

(3) The Panel noted that timely provision of the right forest seed is one of the best forms of assistance that can be given to developing countries because, for a relatively small outlay, it is possible to provide the basis for self-help on a scale that could otherwise not be achieved. Yet the total resources available for exploration and seed collection globally are still wholly inadequate to the needs of developing countries. Apart from the traditional uses of wood as commercial timber or as pulp and paper, the new emphasis on species for energy production and for agroforestry in rural communities has opened up a whole new type of afforestation, in which provision of the right quality and quantity of seed will be a prerequisite to success. The Panel strongly recommended that Governments, Foundations, International Aid Agencies and all potential donors should make a substantial increase in their support of forest seed procurement.

(4) Whereas the Panel recognized the key importance of seed collections for conservation purposes, it also recognized that increased efforts in collecting must be supported by more liberal regulations for importing and exporting seed. The Panel recommended that plant quarantine regulations be reviewed by countries with the aim of increasing efficiency e.g. through the deletion of regulations for unnecessary phytosanitary treatments.

(5) The Panel, noting that the provision of the right seed is the foundation of both industrial and social forestry, recommended that all countries should give consideration to the early development of their own capabilities in seed procurement and storage.

(6) Recognizing that original sources of seed of important species and provenances may not be capable of providing large quantities of seed indefinitely, the Panel recommended that recipient countries should establish their own seed production areas at the earliest opportunity.

(7) Recognizing that genetic diversity is essential to the conservation and improvement of species and to the conservation of ecosystems, and that it is being eroded at an increasing rate, especially in the tropics, the Panel recommended that countries should increase the protection of their genetic resources and ecosystems through the establishment of additional, well-sited protected areas.

(8) Recognizing that the area of tropical rain forests has been greatly reduced and fragmented in the past half-century, and that many of the constituent species occur at very low densities, with a high degree of local endemism, the Panel noted that many species may have been depleted below the level at which they can survive in the long-term in situ. The Panel recommended that countries in which this situation occurs should:

  1. Identify the species critically endangered in this way.

  2. Seek out and propagate such species by any available method.

  3. Establish, expand and maintain national arboreta and botanic gardens as centres for the propagation and conservation of such species, as well as for recreation, education and research.

(9) The Panel noted that as the range and age of international provenance trials increase, so will the value of the information to be derived from them. This underlines the benefits of using standard methods of assessing the trials. The Panel therefore welcomed the standard methods of measuring traits proposed by CFI for tropical pines and by the DANIDA Seed Centre for teak and Gmelina and recommended that countries adopt these, as far as practicable, in assessing their own trials. Even though it will not always be appropriate to measure the full range of possible traits, it is desirable that those which are measured should everywhere be measured in the same way.

(10) Recognizing the need for an appreciation of the value of forest genetic resources among the higher administrative echelons of government, the Panel recommended that Governments give urgent consideration to the inclusion of training about genetic resources, including forest genetic resources, in the training given to government planners, economists and decision-makers.

B. Technical and Operational

(1) Noting that conservation activities have concentrated mainly on ex situ conservation in the past, but that the FAO/UNEP Consultation on In Situ Conservation of Forest Genetic Resources had provided guidelines to in situ conservation, the Panel recommended that the complementary operations of in situ and ex situ conservations should proceed simultaneously. It drew particular attention to the value, as a supplement to formal Protected Areas, of establishing genepool management units in managed production forest, a measure which can combine the sustained yield of forest produce with conservation of genetic diversity. A statement of the expected genetic and ecological impact of prescribed management actions should be incorporated in all forest management and working plans.

(2) Recognizing the importance of forest trees as protential sources of food, fodder and energy, the Panel recommended that increased emphasis be placed on the genetic resources of fruit trees, fodder and fuelwood species and multiple-purpose species for use in agroforestry. Specialized groups of species which merit greater attention than they have received in the past include bamboos, rattans and mangroves.

(3) The Panel reiterated its previous recommendation that research should be intensified, particularly in the tropics, on flowering phenology, breeding systems and reproductive biology. Basic research on most tropical hardwoods in these respects is still lacking.

(4) The Panel noted that for species with orthodox seeds, seed collection and storage may be an alternative or a supplement to live ex situ collections and require continued research support, especially for arid zone species in respect of seed insects. It further recognized that in vitro culture methods can be used to carry out rapid clonal propagation of certain plants, to facilitate international exchange of germ plasm and to store germ plasm for extended periods of time. The Panel recommended that research into seed storage and in vitro techniques for conservation and utilization of forest germ plasm should be initiated, or intensified for those species on which work has already commenced. Special attention should be directed to in vitro techniques for species with recalcitrant seeds.

(5) The Panel noted that genetic resources of a number of species restricted to island ecosystems were of great interest and in danger of impoverishment or complete loss. It recommended that early action be taken to inventory, evaluate and conserve the most important species.


The Panel reviewed progress made since its fourth session in March 1977. While individual members were able to give up-to-date reports on the countries with which they were familiar, the information is certainly far from complete. No attempt has been made to include national efforts in seed procurement which benefit only seed users within the country of collection, nor routine purchase and sale of seed in commercial quantities. In a few instances progress made since the fifth session of the Panel is included also, to provide a more up-to-date picture of current progress.

The regional division follows the areas of responsibility of individual Panel members and describes the following: Australia (p. 5); Papua New Guinea (p. 7); S.E. Asia (p. 7); China (p. 3); India (p. 9); Denmark (p. 10); Eastern Africa (p. 11); Nigeria (p. 13); Ghana (p. 13); CTFT (France) and Francophone Africa (p. 13); Brazil (p. 15); Honduras (p. 15); U.K. (p. 16); Mexico (p. 17); Canada and USA (p. 18); Scandinavia and Northern Europe (p. 19); Southern Europe and North Africa (p. 20); FAO (p. 21).


Exploration and collection. The Seed Centre of the CSIRO Division of Forest Research has continued exploration and seed collection activities in Australia and adjacent countries. It provides a national tree seed coordinating service and, through its specialized collecting programme, aims to maintain a supply of high quality, source-identified seed suitable for research projects.

The collection programme is strongly influenced by priorities established by FAO, the Australian Development Assistance Bureau (ADAB) and the perceived needs for research material in Australia and other countries. Financial restrictions during the period of review have made it necessary for the majority of seed collection expeditions to be sponsored by external agencies and to some extent this has restricted the range of species collected.

Collection activities have been concentrated on species in the arid and semi-arid subtropical areas, and the tropical highlands and lowlands. Increasing attention has been given to species suitable for fuelwood and agroforestry use.

In 1977–81, 37 major seed collections were undertaken by the Seed Centre in Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. The collection of Eucalyptus seeds has remained the first priority. Significant projects included range-wide sampling of E. delegatensis, E. grandis, E. saligna and E. microtheca in Australia; E. brassiana and E. tereticornis in Australia and Papua New Guinea; and E. urophylla in Indonesia. Provenance collections of Acacia aneura and A. mangium in Queensland have been completed and less intensive collections of a range of Casuarina species undertaken throughout Australia.

Seeds of provenances of E. globulus have been distributed by the Tasmanian Forestry Commission and Pinus radiata and P. muricata provenances from California by the CSIRO Division of Forest Research.

ADAB provided funds to enable the Seed Centre to collect or purchase tree seeds for free distribution in the Asia-Pacific region and to provide appropriate literature on request. This arrangement was extended to include certain African countries in 1980–81. These funds were also used to sponsor a joint Australian-Indonesian Government collection of low altitude provenances of E. urophylla in 1979 and to distribute seed-orchard seed of Pinus caribaea var. hondurensis from Queensland. Seed collection parties from Brazil, Egypt, France and New Zealand have been assisted by the Seed Centre and trainees from Nepal, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand have participated in seed collection and handling activities.

A systematic seed collection of a wide range of eucalypts and other genera is being undertaken in Australia and Papua New Guinea for a proposed Australian-Indian Government forestry project in six Indian states. This project includes the intensive provenance sampling of E. tereticornis which is already widely planted in India under the name ‘Mysore hybrid’. The project is funded by ADAB.

In the two-year period 1979–81 the Seed Centre received 794 requests for seeds resulting in the distribution of 12 227 seedlots (465 kg) to organizations within Australia and in 110 other countries. The distribution of increased numbers of seed-lots has been aided by the introduction of a computer data base which facilitates seed-lot retrieval and documentation. During the period 1966–1978, the seed despatches of four major species (E. camaldulensis, E. globulus, E. grandis and E. tereticornis) totalled 4 687. Of these, 92% went to developing countries.

Evaluation. The distribution of seeds for international provenance trials in active cooperation with FAO and IUFRO has continued. Trials of E. grandis, E. microtheca, E. tereticornis E. urophylla have been initiated and similar trials with Acacia mangium are planned.

Gene conservation. A survey of rare or threatened Australian plants has recently been published by Leigh et al. This report includes many tree species and lists 113 species of Acacia, 111 species of Eucalyptus and two species of Casuarina. A more detailed survey of the eucalypts (Pryor 1981) concluded that there is no evidence that any species has become extinct due to human interference but that several species are in a highly precarious position (see list in Appendix 7.3a). These publications also recognized the need to conserve in situ the genetic resources of species which are not yet rare or threatened with extinction.

Proposals by FAO for ex situ conservation of selected provenances of E. camaldulensis and E. tereticornis to be used as prototype stands for refining techniques and costings have been put into effect. With the financial support of UNEP, plantations of these species were established in Thailand, Nigeria and elsewhere from open pollinated seeds of 25 trees from natural Australian stands in each provenance. Seed collections were made in six localities.

Information. Staff of the Seed Centre have continued to provide ad hoc advice to many countries on species and provenance selection and other aspects of the utilization of gene resources. Most advice is provided by mail but direct consultation has been possible in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Malaysia through ADAB support and with China, Thailand and Western Samoa under other arrangements. The potential of Australian tree species for fuelwood production in developing countries has been assessed recently (Boland and Turnbull 1981). This paper lists species suitable for (1) Humid tropics (2) Tropical highlands (3) Arid/semi-arid sub-tropical regions.

The CSIRO Division of Forest Research hosted an international Casuarina Workshop in August 1981 with the objective of collating information on all aspects, including the genetic resources, of this large family. The meeting identified potentially important species which should be included in exploration and seed collection programmes. The Proceedings of the Workshop have since been published (CSIRO 1983).

Papua New Guinea

A number of forest tree species of interest to tropical countries are indigenous to Papua New Guinea. Conifers of particular interest are Araucaria cunninghamii and A. hunsteinii, and important or potentially important broadleaved species occur in the genera Acacia (A. auriculiformis, A. mangium), Casuarina (C. aff. cunninghamiana, C. oligodon), Eucalyptus (E. brassiana, E. deglupta, E. tereticornis) and Terminalia (T. brassii).

Between 1977 and 1979 exploration and seed collection of Araucaria cunninghamii and A. hunsteinii continued and resulted in the collection of six provenances of the former and four of the latter. A. cunninghamii provenances, with a control of A. hunsteinii, were sent to Malaysia, Congo, Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Puerto Rico (USA), Sri Lanka and Nigeria. A. hunsteinii provenances, with a control of A. cunninghamii, were sent to Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica and the Congo. Further collections of Araucaria will be delayed until the preliminary results of these trials are available.

In 1980 and 1981 seed collections of E. deglupta in New Britain and Monrobe Province, mainland Papua New Guinea, have enabled five provenances to be available for international trials. Staff of the Office of Forests cooperated with the Seed Centre, CSIRO Division of Forest Research, Australia in the collection of provenances of E. brassiana and E. tereticornis in Papua.

Reconnaissance of Acacia forest in Western Province have found stands of A. auriculiformis and A. mangium with excellent stem form located near Bensbach, Dimisisi and Oriomo. Seed collections of A. mangium have been made for Sabah, Malaysia and it is anticipated that seeds from this region will be included in international provenance trials of A. mangium planned for 1982. The Western Province promises to be an excellent area for improving the range and quality of genetic resources of Acacias available for plantations and should have high priority in future collection programmes.

Major constraints to increasing the level of seed collection and distribution by the Office of Forests are the limited availability of appropriate staff and the high cost of travel.

S. E. Asia

A regional meeting on “South-east Asian tree improvement and seed procurement cooperative programme” was held in Chiang Mai in February 1979. The meeting endorsed the proposal for a South-east Asian coordination unit for Tree Improvement and Seed Procurement, to be situated in Thailand, to serve S.E. Asia in its broadest regional sense. However, political and financial difficulties prevented the implementation of this proposal. Instead, the ASEAN countries of S.E.Asia (Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia) were able to negotiate collectively and successfully with a donor country, Canada, to set up the ASEAN-CANADA Forest Tree Seed Centre in Thailand. This centre started to operate in 1981. In the meantime, the ASEAN countries have been looking for foreign aid to establish a regional Forest Tree Improvement Centre, to complement the work of the Seed Centre.

The above-mentioned meeting served a useful purpose in clarifying the needs and priorities of the region in forest genetic resource management, species and provenance trials, seed procurement, seed storage and seed distribution. The participants drew up a list of tree genera of interest to countries in the region (with reference to gene resource conservation, seed procurement and research). This is reproduced in Appendix 9.

The 1970's were dominated by work on Pinus, Gmelina, Albizia, Eucalyptus, Tectona, Acacia and a few other well-known genera. Some of these genera have been distributed throughout the whole tropical region, and are expanding in range, population size and genetic diversity at the expense of other tree genera and species of the tropics. For these commercial species provenances have been explored, seeds collected and distributed, and provenance trials and ex situ conservation stands established. It now appears that some of these valuable species are site sensitive, susceptible to weed competition and may need fertilization. On unsuitable sites they have not realized their expected growth rates and sometimes do not perform as well as some of the indigenous hardwoods. It is therefore important that planting trials should include a broad range of genera, species and sites.

In Indonesia in 1979 staff of the Sub-Directorate of Seed, Directorate of Reforestation and Land Rehabilitation, made seed collections of Eucalyptus urophylla in cooperation with CTFT, France and the Division of Forest Research, Canberra. Seven provenances were collected from Flores, Alor and Adonara Islands. More recently (in 1982), one provenance of Acacia mangium was collected from Ceram and a second from Irian Jaya, for inclusion in the international provenance trials of this species.

In the humid tropical forests of S.E. Asia, there are a number of species which are yet to be named and described. Much more exploration and taxonomic research is needed; until species have even been named, it is impossible to assess their conservation status. In Peninsular Malaysia a list is being prepared of known species which are endemic and endangered. It seems likely that it will include several hundred species.


The Chinese Government pays attention to the conservation of the country's natural resources. In 1979 the standing Committee of the National People's Congress promulgated the Forest Law. In order to protect natural ecosystems, rare plants and animals, 73 natural reserves have been designated. Of these, 44 are for rare trees. This amounts to 0.2% of the total Chinese territory. It is intended that the area of natural reserves later will be enlarged. The regional distribution of additional reserves is now being planned. Owing to the large-scale exploration and utilization of forest resources, shortage of fuelwood, overgrazing, development of the cities and the total population increase, there is an urgent need to protect the natural ecosystems and forest gene resources from being permanently lost.

A list of tree species (150–200) in danger of extinction or severe genetic impoverishment has been completed.

Exploration of valuable species, including most rare species, has been carried out. An atlas of Chinese valuable tree species is now being compiled by the Ministry of Forestry and includes a colour photo and brief description of each species.

Range wide provenance trials of the main timber species have been established (Cunninghamia lanceolata, Pinus massoniana, P. koraiensis, P. tabulaeformis, P. sylvestris, var. mongolica, Larix spp, Ulmus pumila and also different exotic species: Pinus taeda, P. caribaea and P. elliottii). From the trials it is intended to select the most suitable seed sources and demarcate the boundaries of seed zones.

More than 600 exotic tree and shrub species have been introduced into China. The most suitable donor regions are the eastern USA and eastern Australia. The Arboretum of the Chinese Academy of Forestry has established seed exchange with more than 30 countries for mutual interest and benefit.

Seed production areas of temperate tree species, such as Pinus koraiensis, P. sylvestris var. mongolica and Larix spp. have been established. First stage seed orchards of some southern tree species have been established too, such as Pinus massoniana, P. caribaea, P. elliottii and Cunninghamia lanceolata.

Progeny tests of Cunninghamia lanceolata have been carried out. Natural seed production areas of some valuable and rare trees have been established in situ, e.g. Metasequoia glyptostroboides and some broadleaved species. Clonal banks have been established for Populus. Grafting and other vegetative propagation methods have been used for multiplication of economic species (Juglans sp., Camellia sp.).


The idea of conservation has gained considerable momentum in the activities of the Forest Department. In connection with this the Department of Environment has been created to implement conservation policies throughout the country. Three nature reserves have been located and surveyed in:

  1. Wet north-eastern region.

  2. Dry regions of Gujarat; and

  3. Moist region of central India.

Following the recommendations of the Fourth Session of the Panel, a scheme has been undertaken, viz.: “Improvement of neem and tree legume species by collection, conservation, evaluation and breeding”.

Neem (Azadirachta indica) belonging to the family Meliaceae is a species well known for its timber, fodder, oil, and other minor products. A. indica is of considerable interest in social forestry and other afforestation programmes.

The leguminous family is very well represented in the Indian sub-continent and covers various habitats, from the wet to extreme dry situations. Because of this, the species in this family has come under heavy pressure of exploitation in some parts, particularly in the arid and semi-arid zones where rural economy is dominated by pastoral habits. In the past no efforts for in situ conservation were made for various leguminous species and steps must therefore be taken immediately to conserve those species of economic importance growing in different habitats. There are also varieties or ecotypes among many of these species and these have already been identified in a few species.

The following leguminous species are considered in the priority list: Acacia nilotica, A. auriculiformis, A. senegal, A. planifrons, A. tortilis, A. farnesiana, A. albida, A. modesta, Prosopis cineraria, P. chilensis, Albizia lebbeck.

The objectives of the scheme are:

  1. To initiate work on survey of neem and tree legume species as approved by the working group set up by the Government of India. This will give information on the variability available and steps to be taken on conservation.

  2. To initiate selection work and collections of the various gene resources by creation of germ plasm banks and studies on vegetative propagation techniques, etc.

A scheme “Bamboo Germ Plasm Collection, Conservation and Evaluation”, has been undertaken to initiate germ plasm collection activities in bamboos, establish them in gene banks for future intensive studies and use in genetic upgrading of selected species, so that improved planting stocks are identified and used in breeding and all future planting work. This will also help to explore natural variation and to take steps for in situ conservation of selected stands in certain areas.

While the general work of survey, collection of germ plasm material and its conservation should cover as many species as possible that occur naturally in India, high priority will be assigned to the evaluation and utilization, in genetic upgrading, of eight species representing four genera which are of immediate commercial importance. These species are: Melocanna baccifera, Dendrocalamus strictus, Bambusa tulda, B. balcoa, B. arundinacea and three species of Ochlandra, O. travancorica, O. rheedei and O. ebracteata.

Keen interest has also been evinced in the cane resources. The genus Calamus has been neglected far too long and, considering its importance both from the point of view of ecology and economic use, the canes ought to have received much greater attention. In the recent past much of the cane areas have been wiped out due to thoughtless conversion of cane brakes.

A large number of provenance trials have been established in this region through national agencies as well as under certain international programmes. The main species included are: Eucalyptus grandis, E. camaldulensis, E. tereticornis, E. urophylla, Gmelina arborea, Tectona grandis, Pinus caribaea, P. taeda, Pinus pseudostrobus, P. elliottii, Leucaena leucocephala, Prosopis chilensis, Albizia lebbeck.

Under the Indo-Danish Project on Seed Procurement, working groups have been established for the improvement of individual species (Rosewood, Pinus roxburghii, Tectona grandis, Bombax ceiba, Gmelina spp. and Acacia spp.). The working groups have laid down targets for selection of plus trees and establishment of seed orchards. The project has also made a proposal for a national Certification Scheme for Forest Reproductive Material. Through the project, attempts have also been made for the establishment of Seed Collection and Certification Units within the States.

Seed zone maps have been prepared in consultation with the State Forest Departments. Together with this, information was collected on the distribution of species and the frequency of their occurrence within each zone. To register plus trees, seed production areas and seed orchards of individual species, forms were prepared, standardized, printed and circulated to the States for their use. As recommended by the working groups, the project, in collaboration with the States, initiated national level provenance trials for Tectona grandis, Pinus roxburghii, Bombax ceiba and Dalbergia sissoo. Trials of teak have been initiated on 41 sites in 17 States, of P. roxburghii on 15 sites in 8 States and two adjacent countries, Nepal and Bhutan, of B. ceiba on 20 sites in 12 States, and of D. sissoo on 20 sites in 10 States. Studies on the pattern of flowering in clones of four provenances of teak have been established under several different site conditions.

Both India and Pakistan are taking part in the FAO international project on Genetic Resources of Tree Species in Arid and Semi-arid Areas.

A list of endangered species is shown in Appendix 7.3c.


The former Danish/FAO Forest Tree Seed Centre is now named DANIDA FOREST SEED CENTRE. The current programme and funding period of the Seed Centre is for five years, from July 1981 to June 1986. The start of this new phase coincided with a move to new premises with ample office space and improved facilities. The main activities during the last four years have been:

Collections. The international provenance trial scheme in Gmelina arborea, operated jointly by the Director of Forest Research, FRI, India and the Seed Centre, continued with a second round of provenance collections in 1978–79 and distribution of the lots in 1980. The greater part of provenance samples was collected in 1975–77 and distributed in 1977 but, to make the representation of the geographic distribution more complete, the remaining areas were covered as far as possible in subsequent years. A total of 40 provenances have been distributed to 26 countries taking part in international trials.

Supplementary provenance samples of teak, Tectona grandis, from Thailand have been obtained from the Teak Improvement Centre. Together with some samples from India they constitute a useful stock for small scale trials of provenances for which the Centre has frequent requests.

Evaluation. A comprehensive and worldwide evaluation of teak and Gmelina arborea provenance trials has been prepared and actual field assessments are planned to commence early in 1982. As part of the preparations a method of standard assessment has been worked out for teak, which in many repsects may be applicable to Gmelina arborea and perhaps other broadleaved species as well. Early results from nurseries and field trials in Gmelina arborea have been compiled and published.

Conservation. The Seed Centre has been involved in coordination of a short term project sponsored by DANIDA as part of the Global Programme for Improved Use of Forest Genetic Resources (FAO 1975). The object of the short term programme is to promote establishment of more ex situ conservation stands in S.E. Asia of specified provenances from two Central American Pine species and two Eucalyptus species, making up a total of 16 ten ha plots. The object has been achieved by establishment of ex situ conservation stands in the Philippines and Tanzania; in addition a 100 ha in situ conservation stand of Pinus merkusii has been established in East Thailand, constituting a Genetic Resource Reserve in a Managed Resource Area (IUCN Category VIII). The second phase of the project, i.e. inspection of the established conservation stands, is being completed and a very recent report indicates that satisfactory progress has been made.

Other activities. The Seed Centre has cooperated with the Indian Forest Service and Forest Research Institute, Dehra Dun, in the promotion of a seed procurement and tree improvement scheme. An Indo/Danish project on this subject was established in February 1977 and is still in progress.

Cooperation with Thailand has continued and, it is hoped, may be extended as valuable material and experiences have accumulated during the last 20 years. The work in Thailand may give an important impetus to the promotion of seed procurement, tree improvement and gene resource conservation in the region.

One of the staff of the Seed Centre has lectured at a FAO/DANIDA training course in forest tree improvement in Venezuela, February 1980, which may be supplemented by a follow-up visit to participants in 1982.

A major activity has been acting as a handling, storage and distribution centre for seed collected within the FAO/IBPGR/UNEP project on Genetic Resources of Arid and Semi-arid Zone Arboreal Species for the Improvement of Rural Living (see Appendix 6).

Eastern Africa

Conservation. In tropical eastern Africa there are more than 2 000 different tree species, of which less than 50 species are regularly utilized. It is now recognized that the “non-commercial” species have a considerable potential, not only for the fibre industry, but also for the drug and chemical industries.

In Uganda more than 7 000 ha of Strict Natural Reserves had been established by 1976. But there have been difficulties in managing the Reserves. This stems from the fact that the Uganda Forest Act preserved certain rights of local people to collect forest produce for their own use, without legal provisions for prevention of this practice in the Strict Natural Reserves.

In Kenya there are 14 Nature Reserves covering about 50 000 ha. A total ban on all hunting was introduced in 1977 and, in theory, the vegetation in the National Parks is protected from all forms of harvesting. This gives them the status of Strict Natural Reserves. But in practice, the National Parks concentrate on the development of roads, lodges, camping sites and tourist amenities and on making wild animals more easily seen by clearing the forest.

In Ethiopia there are plans to survey, map and perhaps pass legislation to reserve some natural forests in the south of the country.

Conservation is hampered in many countries by lack of biological knowledge about species. The management of Nature Reserves and National Parks should therefore be supported by parallel studies to monitor changes in species and within-species genetic diversity. Research of this kind in the region suffers severely from lack of funds. Limited forest inventories have been carried out to provide information on standing wood volumes of known commercial species in natural forests, but even this essential exercise cannot be repeated regularly because of shortages of financial and human resources.

Forest Departments tend to be selective in what they conserve in reserved natural forests. While silvicultural systems are known or are being developed, the tendency has been to favour the known commercial species, by neglect or selective elimination, by herbicides or mechanical destruction, of less productive or noncommercial species. This sustained management of natural forests for purposes of production is unlikely to preserve to their full genetic diversity of species and within-species. In Kenya there have been some examples of failure in conservation (Ocotea usambarensis, Acacia tortilis, Diospyros mespiliformis, Brachyleana hutchinsii).

The following actions would be of great benefit for genetic resource conservation in this region:

  1. Preparation of a practical manual on in situ conservation;

  2. Introduction of training courses on conservation and management of genetic resources;

  3. Influence planners to retain segments of forests and to manage these as natural reserves;

  4. At the international level to support basic ecological studies.

Utilization for planting. Early plantation programmes concentrated on the introduction of fast-growing exotic species. The most important exotic genera were Cupressus, Pinus and Araucaria among conifers and Acacia, Eucalyptus, Gmelina, Melia, Populus, Tectona and Terminalia among broadleaved species.

More recently attention has been turned to species for planting in dry zones and for agroforestry. Farmers have traditionally used trees or shrubs in close relation to agriculture, e.g. the live hedges of Cupressus, Euphorbia, Markhamia, Croton and Eucalyptus, while some of the dry zones species provide a useful reserve source of food, e.g. Carissa edulis, Balanites aegyptiaca, Moringa oleifolia, Ziziphus spp., Tamarindus indicus, Cordeaxia edulis. Until very recently no systematic research has been conducted on the most appropriate agroforestry systems for different conditions, but ICRAF and IDRC have provided a valuable stimulus. ICRAF has conducted various training programmes and is now establishing a research centre in East Africa.

Endangered tree species. It is a problem that many non-commercial species are bound to be overlooked because of lack of basic ecological data. In Kenya attempts have been made to do some fast surveys in various indigenous forests for identification of endangered or vulnerable tree species. Concern is felt for ten species which appear to fall into one or other of these categories. Notes on these are given in Appendix 7.3f.

Nigeria and Ghana

GENERAL. Some of the most valuable commercial species (Pericopis elata, Gossweilerodendron balsamiferum, Lovoa trichlioides, Entandrophragma utile, Nauclea diderichii, Terminalia ivorensis, T. superba, Antiaris africana, Triplochiton scleroxylon and Mitragyna ciliata) are theatened with extinction in their areas of natural distribution, because of massive exploitation. Their continued existence is now more precarious with the logging of individuals of lower girth classes. More information on breeding systems, phenology of flowering and fruiting, and intra-specific genetic variation of indigenous species is a prerequisite to effective action or conservation.


The areas devoted to in situ conservation as Strict Natural Reserves (SNR) have increased in number from seven to eleven and now represent 0.3% of the total land area. One of the SNRs has been accepted as a Bisophere Reserve. There has also been established a national park (Kainji). Different universities have started to establish Botanical Gardens.

The ex situ conservation stands of various provenances of Pinus caribaea, P. oocarpa and Eucalyptus camaldulensis, established under an FAO/UNEP project (see Annex 5) are being maintained.

The first national tree planting day was celebrated on 5 June 1981. This is expected to become an annual event.

The establishment and growth of pines appear to have improved, especially in the hot middle belt of Nigeria, with the introduction of Pisolithus tinctorius as a mycorrhizal fungus. The fungus survives very high soil temperatures better than Rhizopogon which was introduced two decades earlier.

Methods of collection, handling and storage of seeds of Azadirachta indica (Neem) and Gmelina arborea are being studied. This has been found necessary because of the difficulty in achieving good germination.

For training purposes an international workshop on “Agro-forestry” was held in Ibadan in 1981. This was partly financed by IDRC. An international training course on “Rain Forest Management” was held in Ibadan in 1982 and Unesco partly sponsored this course.


In Ghana, proposals for the establishment of new SNRs, in addition to the existing two, have reached an advanced stage.

CTFT (France) and Francophone Africa

CTFT at Nogent-sur-Marne has continued its activites in the collection and distribution of forest seed and has had especially close cooperation with its own overseas centres in Congo, Ivory Coast and Upper Volta and with CNRF in Senegal. During the three years 1978–1980, respectively 352, 535 and 820 seedlots were distributed. African genera distributed included Acacia, Canarium, Carapa, Chlorophora, Cleistopholis, Entandrophragma, Khaya, Maesopsis, Mansonia, Prosopis, Tarrietia, Terminalia and Triplochiton. In addition CTFT, in cooperation with local forest services and research institutes, collected seeds of nine provenances of Pinus caribaea in Central America in 1978, three provenances of Eucalyptus urophylla in Indonesia in 1979 and six provenances of four species of eucalypts in Australia in 1980. Seed from earlier collections of E. urophylla was supplied for international provenance trials organized by FAO.

Several actions have taken place specifically for the exploration, collection and conservation of Terminalia superba, which is an important species in Congo and Ivory Coast but is becoming progressively impoverished by heavy exploitation. Seeds of four provenances from southern Congo were collected in 1981 and a further six provenances will be collected in 1982. Seven provenances were collected from Ivory Coast in 1981, and a further three to five will be collected in 1982. One Burundi land race (origin Mayombe in Zaire) was also collected and additional collections from Cameroon will be made in 1982. Seeds will be used for national and international provenance trials and for establishment of conservation stands in the countries of origin. At the same time seed trees have been selected in the southern Congo provenances and seed orchards of grafted select clones have been established.

Triplochiton scleroxylon is another important species in Ivory Coast which is being rapidly impoverished in its natural range. Arrangements have been made to explore the provenances in Ivory Coast, to select individual superior phenotypes and to establish conservation stands by use of cuttings.

The exotic Cedrela odorata is now an important plantation species in Ivory Coast. Earlier provenance trials gave evidence of the superiority of two provenances. A further series of trials, including provenances collected by CFI Oxford, has been started in Congo, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Guyane. Provenance trials of Cordia alliodora have also been started in several countries. In Ivory Coast two provenances (Finca la fortuna from Honduras and Limon from Costa Rica) have performed best.

Establishment of clonal plantations of eucalypt hybrids in Congo has now reached a commercial scale, with 8 000 ha planted by the end of 1981. Techniques for controlled pollination and rooting of cuttings have been further improved and new introductions of some species (E. grandis, E. saligna, E. urophylla, E. robusta, etc.) have been made for crossing and production of new hybrids.

Tree improvement on exotic conifers has continued, especially in Congo, Ivory Coast and New Caledonia. In Congo local plantations of Pinus caribaea var. hondurensis now produce enough fertile seed to plant 1 000 ha per year. The problem of poor seed production in Araucaria remains a major constraint on the use of this genus, although A. cunninghamii and A. columnaris are now starting to produce small quantities in Congo. Research on vegetative reproduction of Pinus and Araucaria continues.

Provenance trials of teak and Gmelina have now reached the evaluation stage. Indications are that several new introductions from Asia are superior to local land races, but there remains a need to procure larger quantities of seed of these superior provenances, in order to widen the genetic base available for selection and breeding.

For arid and semi-arid areas, provenance trials have continued in northern Cameroon, northern Benin, Central African Republic and Senegal, with emphasis on Eucalyptus tereticornis, E. camaldulensis and E. microtheca. Problems of maintaining seed viability in Azadirachta indica have restricted the provenance trial programme in that species. More attention is now being paid to local indigenous species for the very dry areas where, although slow growing, they often survive the harsh conditions better than exotics.


The “Grupo Permanente de Trabalho in Mellioramento Genetico Forestal” (GPIMGF) (Permanent Working Group on Genetic Tree Improvement) was created in 1979 as part of the Programa Nacional de Pesquisa Florestal (PNPF) - the National Programme of Forest Research. The main aims of the Working Group are to:

  1. Analyse the research on tree improvement carried out by the different institutes which are members of the working group.

  2. Give guidance on the utilization of the basic forest genetic material for genetic improvement and genetic conservation programmes.

  3. Assist exchange of forest genetic material among the institutes.

  4. Make proposals for standardization of tree improvement terminology and of field trials in the improvement work.

The members of the working group include the Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisas Agropecuarias (EMBRAPA) and its regional centres, the State Forest Institute of Sao Paulo State and departments or institutes from the universities of Sao Paulo, Vicosa and Parana State. The inclusion of the universities makes it possible to include graduate and undergraduate students directly in the forest gene conservation field.

As a result of GPIMGF's creation, there has been an intensification of activities in relation to gene conservation of Brazilian native trees, and at the same time a better coordination in relation to tree improvement of exotic species (mainly Eucalyptus spp. and Pinus spp.). Because Brazil has many different ecological zones, it is essential to have some sort of coordination for conservation of forest gene resources. The allocation of funds through PNPF is now guided by the priorities recommended by the GPIMGF. Species priorities have been established by GPIMGF and are incorporated in Appendix 8.

Several forest types in eastern and southern Brazil are in a critical condition. Action to conserve them is required urgently, but it is sometimes impossible to establish national parks, strict nature reserves or managed nature reserves, due to different reasons:

  1. The areas belong to private farms.

  2. The residual forests are subject to intensive pressure for energy utilization.

Another problem is that existing national parks are sometimes not representative of ecologial variation in the region.


The Seed Bank section of the National School of Forest Sciences of Siguatepeque has completed a study to delineate provenance regions for Pinus caribaea and Pinus oocarpa (Robbins and Hughes 1983). The study was undertaken a) to provide a rational basis for national provenance studies and tree improvement; b) to give guidelines for seed movement within the country for national plantation programmes and c) to define limits within which seed may be mixed from different provenances for export. The latter is a minimum requirement for the OECD scheme for certification of forest reproductive material moving in international trade, to which the Seed Bank hopes to apply for membership.

The provenance regions have been delineated on the basis of species distribution, environmental factors, phenotypic studies and results from the CFI, Oxford, international provenance trials and related studies. It is hoped that the study can be extended to the neighbouring countries of Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador and finally to Belize and Mexico to complete regional delineation and description.

It is expected that the provenance regions for P. caribaea and P. oocarpa will also be applicable to associated pine species such as P. tenuifolia/pseudostrobus, P. tecunumanii, P. ayacahuite and also hardwoods that have distributions closely related to the distribution of the pines.

The Seed Bank has a capacity of 8 000 kg of pine seeds. In the previous year 3 000 kg of seed was collected, mainly of Pinus caribaea, P. oocarpa and P. pseudostrobus, with smaller quantities of broadleaved genera, Cedrela, Cordia, Enterolobium, Liquidambar, Swietenia and Tabebuia. 2 100 kg of seed was distributed overseas. For the most part the pine forests are regenerated naturally. A start has been made on the seed stand programme by demarcating a 53 ha stand for seed production in Guaimaca and a 28 ha stand in Las Lajas.

United Kingdom

The Overseas Development Administration (ODA) has continued to support the programmes of research and associated activities in the field of forest genetic resources based principally at the Commonwealth Forestry Institute (FCI) and with particular attention to the Central American Region.

For P. oocarpa some additional collections have been made of provenances for the first stage international trials. Now the emphasis in collecting has moved to seed collection for second stage tests. Distribution of individual tree collections (about 4 000 seedlots) for the second stage provenance/progeny tests is almost complete. Descriptions of the seed sources included in the international trials of both P. caribaea and P. oocarpa have been published (Greaves 1978, 1979).

The main emphasis of research is now on the evaluation stage and on data storage, retrieval and analysis under the INTFORPROV system at Oxford. Twenty-eight trials were selected for intensive assessment of traits, including wood density and oleoresin. Analysis of the data from the P. caribaea trials shows that no single provenance is clearly best for all characteristics on all sites. Different provenances are superior for volume production, wood density, stem straightness, foxtailing, flowering, etc. There is also some provenance/environment interaction in important traits and the amount of within provenance variation itself varies with provenance. Analysis for P. oocarpa is continuing but is less advanced.

An annotated bibliography and review article on P. oocarpa have been prepared. Collections and studies of mycorrhizal fungi from natural pine forests have continued.

A new research scheme has now been started to develop genetic conservation and improvement strategies for P. caribaea and P. oocarpa based on the information gained on the natural populations of greatest interest and their special attributes. This will involve re-sampling of the important populations in their natural ranges and selection in the provenance trials to assemble material regionally for the construction of breeding populations. A working plan for the most effective use of the knowledge and the scattered genetic resources was presented at the IUFRO genetics workshop in Germany in 1982.

In collaboration with INIF (Mexico) seed of P. pseudostrobus for provenance trials has been distributed and consideration is now being given to making individual tree collections in the southernmost provenances for second stage provenance/progeny tests. There is reason for concern over the security of many natural populations in the southern part of the range.

In parallel with the continued exploration and taxonomic research on the principal Central American species, botanical exploration in the area has revealed P. tecuumanii to be potentially very important. It has been found to be more wide-spread in Honduras than was previously thought. Seed of individual tree collections from three southern provenances has been distributed and further collections are planned.

Increased attention is also being given to southernmost occurrences of P. chiapensis, which may have great potential for afforestation in wetter tropical areas. Good stands have been located in Alta Verapaz (Guatemala).

Seeds of Agathis spp. have been distributd for initial provenance trials. Over twenty countries are participating. It is hoped that these will lead to the establishment of seed and conservation stands outside the natural range of the moth which destroys much of the seed of A. macrophylla. Good progress has been made in the production of orthotropic plantlets by vegetative propagation.

The limited 1968 international provenance trials of Cedrela odorata had indicated promising provenances from Belize and Costa Rica and in 1978 new collections were started. In addition to C. odorata, C. angustifolia from Venezuela, C. fissilis and the non-American Toona ciliata var. australis have been included in the 30 new trials.

Twenty-one provenance collections of Cordia alliodora from Central America were made as the basis for initial provenance trials on over 100 sites in 25 countries. Early indications are that provenances from the north coast of Honduras and one from Nicaragua do consistently well.

Botanical exploration of other hardwoods has been directed particularly to arid zones, with considerable effort devoted to identification of taxa encountered. Some seeds collections have also been started in Central America. Species so far included are Acacia deanii, Bombacopsis quinata, Leucaena leucocephala and Prosopis juliflora.

A research scheme was started at the Royal Botanic Gardens (Kew) laboratories to study problems in the storage of seed of tropical forest trees, with particular reference to the needs of provenance research and genetic resource conservation. The scheme has so far concentrated on Agathis and Araucarias to determine which species are “Orthodox”, and to assess optimum storage conditions. Investigations have recently been started on “recalcitrant” hardwood spp., with particular reference to dipterocarps.


During 1977/78 the “Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Forestales” (INIF), was restructured in order to facilitate the speedy accomplishment of research at a national level. The country has been divided into eight regions, each of which has a regional research centre. INIF coordinates and supervises the work of more than 300 scientists. Its central office is subdivided into five different divisions: research, training, inventory, technical and administration. The research division includes the following subjects: forest management, multiple use, forest protection, forest plantations, fauna, economics and planning, logging and forest products. Within the subject of forest plantations, the four sectors for research are a) seed technology; b) tree improvement; c) propagation and nurseries; and d) establishment and management.

INIF now makes seed collections only for experimental purposes. The collections are made not only of species used for timber production, but also of species used for food, fodder, fuelwood and medicine.

During the period 1977–1981 about 500 seedlots were supplied to other countries on an exchange basis. In 1978 the 185 seedlots supplied comprised 44 species. In the same year seed of 27 Mexican provenances of Pinus oocarpa was supplied to CFI, Oxford for inclusion in the international provenance trials organized by that institute under the auspices of FAO, in Africa, Asia and Oceania. INIF in turn, received seedlots of Central American provenances of P.oocarpa collected by CFI and was responsible for organizing the international trials of the combined Mexico and Central American provenances in Brazil, Cameroon, Ecuador, Honduras and Venezuela. Twenty-four provenances were despatched for trial on 16 sites.

Collection of seeds of Pinus patula for international trials continued and by the end of 1981, 17 seedlots of eight provenances were available.

INIF, through its north-western and north-eastern regional research centres, has been cooperating in the FAO/IBPGR project on “Genetic Resources of Arid and Semi-arid Zone Arboreal Species for the Improvement of Rural Living”. Exploration of the natural range of Prosopis has been made and seed collected of P. laevigata, P. glandulosa and P. juliflora; also of the promising Leucaena microphylla in Baja California. As part of the same project, provenances of the exotic Eucalyptus microtheca have been planted on several sites.

Work has continued on delimiting the distribution of the different species of pines and establishing seed zones, as well as phenological studies on flowering and fruiting.

In the tropical zone investigations have been made for the integration of agriculture and forestry under an agroforestry system.

The conservation programme is concerned with the establishment of biosphere reserves and the protection of endangered species - not only trees, but all species which are important as a part of the total forestry ecosystem. Lists of endangered species including trees, shrubs and herbs, have been compiled. The list of endangered tree species is shown in Appendix 7.3e.

A clone bank has been established for Gmelina arborea. Variation studies have been concluded on Pinus pseudostrobus and Pinus strobus var. chiapensis, while tree improvement work has included selection of plus trees in these species, plus P. douglasiana, P. oocarpa, P. patula, P. montezumae and P. arizonica.

In October 1980 INIF hosted at San Felipe Bacalar the joint ISTA/IUFRO workshop on Seed Problems in Tropical Species. The items covered were: Seed Sampling and Purity, Germination, Use of Tetrazolium, Use of X-rays, and Storage. INIF continues to participate in the meetings of the Study Group on Tree Improvement of the North American Forestry Commission. One important task in this Study Group is the compilation of a multi-lingual Tree Improvement Glossary, in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

Canada and USA

Control on seed origin is now normal for all native species used in artificial regeneration in Canada and USA.

No entire species is known to be endangered but there are a number of valuable provenances which are endangered due to various reasons:

  1. Exploitation (for example, Juglans nigra)

  2. Genetic contamination or replacement by introduced provenances (for example, P. banksiana, P. radiata).

  3. Fringe or outlier populations (for example Pinus resinosa); for these species the remnant stands are being identified.

It is planned to establish new parks and ecological reserves. The US Forest Service is now concerned with protection strategies for selected genepools in north-western USA. It is also realized that the arid and semi-arid areas have received too little attention, especially the border areas between Mexico and USA. In Canada there are a large number of parks but these do not always meet the needs for conservation of forest genetic resource. Certain stands have now been set aside as “Designated Stands” (similar to the “Standard Stands” of Finland) to be regenerated naturally or artifically from seed collected, without conscious selection, in the same stands.

Seed Certification is used in USA and in Western Canada. Seed Centres at Macon in Georgia and Petawawa in Canada have continued to provide the focus for international seed exchange.

Exotics are not yet of commercial importance in Canada, but a number of trials are in progress. The best material from earlier introductions of some species, e.g. Picea abies, Larix spp. has been collected together with a view to the eventual creation of Canadian land races. Advances in tree improvement in Canada continue to be reported in the periodic Proceedings of the Canadian Tree Improvement Association.

Scandinavia and Northern Europe

Scandinavian forests are not in any immediate danger of extinction. Nor are there any tree species in immediate danger. But there are reasons to be concerned about the natural gene resources, because of the intensive forest management systems now in use, together with progressive utilization of advances in forest tree breeding. This increased use of artificial regeneration, using optimal seed sources, e.g. Norway Spruce from Central or S.E. Europe, or seed orchard seed or vegetative propagation, are all liable to cause genetic erosion of the natural gene pool.

Measures have been taken in several countries to reduce the risk of an excessive narrowing of the natural genepools. In Sweden in 1978, the report of an expert group on “Forest Gene Resources--Conservation, Utilization and Renewal” was published, as a result of which a Swedish National Forestry Gene Bank was set up in 1980. The conservation programme aims to conserve in situ, in perpetuity, a number of indigenous provenances. Younger stands are also to be registered as sources of breeding material for the national programme. In Finland eleven new National Parks have been established on state land and six existing parks have been enlarged. The total increase in area amounts to 160 000 ha. New Strict Nature Reserves have been established in five locations with a total area of 23 000 ha. In addition, existing Strict Nature Reserves have been enlarged in four cases by a total of 40 000 ha. Together with these efforts, there is a special programme for the conservation of peat and wetlands. Although most of these areas are unforested, in some cases they will constitute reserves for native tree species, including specially adapted ecotypes not found on solid mineral soils. Distribution of reserves (A) is not ideal because of the preponderance of private land in the south of the country; it may be necessary to rectify this by State purchase of private land.

In USSR more than 140 000 ha have been allocated to permanent forest tree seed production areas; more than 8 000 ha of seed orchards have been established; and more than 14 000 plus trees have been accepted and entered in the National Register. There is news about a large network of national provenance trials on Pinus sylvestris, Picea abies, Larix spp, Pinus cembra and Abies sibirica. The Russian Red Book “Krasnaja Kniga” registers several tree species as endangered and in need of protection. Many of these are of importance as genetic resources also for countries outside the Soviet Union.

The Scandinavian countries have agreed to a common system of data storage for all trees included in their breeding programmes. Data will include origin, conservation in seed and clone banks, breeding performance etc.

In regard to exotics, the variety of provenances of Pinus contorta var. latifolia in Scandinavia, particularly in Sweden, is probably the greatest outside North America. The last collections of N. American conifers organized for IUFRO by the Seed Centre at Humlebaek, Denmark, were of Abies spp. and seeds have now been distributed. The Scandinavian countries have jointly made expeditions to Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Tasmania, USSR and Patagonia for forestry, ornamental and horticultural purposes. Nothofagus is of particular interest to the Faroe Islands.

Southern Europe and North Africa

In Greece, France and Italy there has been further development of breeding work on Abies cephalonica. In France two seedling seed orchards have been established. Provenance trials are being maintained.

For Cedrus atlantica fifteen seed stands have been selected in France, and provenance trials have been established in Italy.

Because of the spreading of Coryneum cardinale, cooperative work in selection and breeding has been developed for Cupressus, especially between France, Italy and Greece. A few apparently resistant clones have been selected and are still under test. A comprehensive seed collection of C. sempervirens has been carried out in the islands of Crete and Samos. Selections have been made in C. arizonica and C. atlantica and conservation stands have been established of C. dupreziana.

Provenance trials have been established in France of Eucalyptus nitens and E. delegatensis, with special emphasis on selection for cold resistance.

A cooperative programme of collection and testing of Pinus canariensis has been planned by Morocco. Provenance trials of P. halepensis, P. brutia and P. eldarica, started in 1975, are giving clear indications of the large interest of P. eldarica, especially for difficult sites, and where there is a need of frost hardiness. Three small seed stands have been established and have started flowering. Several P. halepensis provenances show a clear superiority in form and growth.

Provenance trials of P. nigra laricio have been established in France and Italy, and protection of an almost extinct provenance in Tuscany has been ensured.

Because of the spreading of several diseases, selection and breeding have been started on Platanus, which is important both for urban amenity and for wood supply in agriculture. Several provenances have been collected (especially of P. orientalis) and are being tested. Similar research has been undertaken in Ulmus spp.

Because of the special interest of Tetraclinis articulata for reforestation under extreme site conditions, especially for its drought resistance, provenance trials are planned and seed collection from several different countries has been started.

Selection work has also been started on Castanea vesca, Juglans regia and Prunus sp., because of their importance to agriculture and especially for their valuable timber. Good progress has been obtained in micropropagation, especially on Prunus.

Good progress has been made in several countries in selection and breeding of introduced Pseudotsuga menziesii and seedling and clonal seed stands have been established.


Regular Programme

FAO's Regular Programme funds available for seed procurement and forest genetic resources in the biennium 1978–79 amounted to US$ 66 300 and in 1980–81 to US$ 96 000. Nearly half of the 1980–81 allocation went towards the procurement of dry area tropical species, in support of the project on Genetic Resources of Arid/Semi-Arid Zone Arboreal Species, described later in this report. Details of allocations and species for 1980–81 are given in Appendix 3. A consolidated financial statement from 1966–1983 appears in Appendix 4.

FAO has also assisted in the coordination of a number of recent international provenance trials. They included:

SpeciesNo.of provenances or provenance groupsNo.of countries/institutesSeed collecting institutes
Eucalyptus microtheca2116CSIRO
Eucalyptus urophylla1228
D.G. of Forestry, Indonesia, CTFT, CSIRO
Pinus oocarpa1612INIF
Pinus patula1735INIF
Gmelina arborea3722DANIDA FSC
Araucaria cunninghamii  6  7Office of Forests, PNG
Araucaria hunsteinii  4  4    "         :

Further collections and international trials are planned, of arid zone species of Acacia, Atriplex, Carcidium and Prosopis; of Eucalyptus deglupta; and Acacia mangium and other tropical Acacia species.

FAO contributed some funds towards collections of provenances of Pinus radiata and P. muricata made in California by a joint Australia/New Zealand/USA team. Seed was distributed to 15 countries, including 12 developing countries. FAO also contributed to the costs of distributing seeds of superior phenotypes of Pinus caribaea which has been organized by the Queensland Forestry Department. Six developing countries have received seeds.

In addition to the research quantities of seed for trials, semi-bulk seedlots have been procured of provenances of great potential value, which presently are either (i) endangered with genetic contamination or depletion; or (ii) difficult to procure. Seed of three valuable Nicaraguan lowland provenances was provided to 23 institutes in 21 countries. Enough seed was distributed for more than 170 ha of conservation/seed production/selection stands.

Semi-bulk quantities of seed have also been procured of some other species and provenances from Central America. These include Pinus caribaea var. hondurensis from Honduras, Guatemala and Belize, and Pinus strobus var. chiapensis from Guatemala.

FAO's Forestry Department financed a survey, carried out by consultant D.G. Nikles, on Genetic Improvement of Tropical Lowland Conifers: the Needs and and Possibilities of International Cooperation. The report (FO: MISC/79/25) was published in 1979. Since the survey, proposals for projects within the framework of a cooperative programme on tropical lowland conifers have been submitted by FAO to a number of donors, both for a central coordinating unit and/or for regional units, as recommended in the report. None of these proposals have, so far, attracted finance.

Achievements in the dissemination of information from 1977 to 1981 included publication of Nos. 7–10 of Forest Genetic Resources Information. No. 10 included a questionnaire designed to monitor the support of readers and up-date the mailing list. This revealed a readership of nearly 2 000 distributed as followed: - Europe 590, N. America 406, S. America 369, Africa 182, Near East 27, Asia 278 and Australia/Pacific 63.

In addition to FGRI, FAO's Forestry Department, in collaboration with IUFRO, and with financial assistance from UNEP, published a Working Document entitled “Data Book on Endangered Forest Tree Species and provenances” (FAO 1981b). It is hoped that this Data Book will complement the “IUCN Red Data Book” on endangered plants (IUCN, 1978) by including species endangered also in parts of their range, i.e. at the provenance level. The Working Document has been distributed to individuals and national research institutions working in the field of forest genetic resources, requesting comments and additions to the Data Book. These will be analysed with a view to including in the final version of the Data Book as many as possible of the actually or potentially valuable species/provenances of interest to forestry, agroforestry and energy programmes, which are in danger of depletion, genetic contamination or extinction.

A paper describing the Project on the Conservation of Genetic Resources of Arid/Semi-arid Zone Arboreal Species for the Improvement of Rural Living, described later in this note, was published in Unasylva No. 133 (Palmberg 1981a). The strategies and principles of this project were also presented in a paper to the FAO/IBPGR Technical Conference on Crop Genetic Resources in Rome in April 1981 (Palmberg 1981b). Papers on the Status of the Global Programme on Forest Genetic Resources, and on the Cooperative Programme on Genetic Improvement of Tropical Lowland Conifers, were presented at the IUFRO meeting in Brazil in 1980.

A training course on forest tree improvement for the Latin American Region, financed by DANIDA, was held in Venezuela in January 1980. Nineteen participants from seventeen countries, plus a number of Venezuelan observers, participated in the three-week course. The report, plus Lecture Notes, were published as Forestry Paper 20 (FAO 1980d).

Programmes supported by UNEP

FAO's Forestry Department, with financial assistance from UNEP, carried out a Pilot Study in 1975 which resulted in the publication of “The Methodology of Conservation of Forest Genetic Resources” (FAO 1975b). Based on technical recommendations made in this study and on early results from exploration and the international provenance trials mentioned above, an FAO/UNEP project was started in 1975/76 for the conservation of genetic resources of selected forest tree species and provenances (Project No. 1108-75-05).

The ex situ component of the project met all expectations. Thirty-eight international ex situ conservation/selection stands of some 10 ha each have been established in five countries in Africa and one country in Asia, using a total of eleven provenances of four different species. A FAO consultant (P.J. Wood) visited these stands in 1978, and made observations on success, difficulties and possible shortcomings in the project. Management instructions were also preliminarily drawn up, and will be published in the final report on the project. The success of this activity is shown by the fact that a number of the participating countries subsequently established national seed production/selection/conservation stands, using the same methodology used in the FAO/UNEP project. The areas and distribution of provenances established in conservation stands under the project are shown in Appendix 5.

Agreements on in situ conservation proved more difficult to achieve. Funding under the project was only provided for two botanical reserves in Zambia, for the in situ conservation of Baikiaea plurijuga (Zambesi Redwood, Zambian Teak). This action was followed up by the allocation to Zambia by SIDA of bilateral funds for botanical investigation of this species.

An FAO/UNEP Consultation on in situ conservation on forest genetic resources was held in December 1980 to lay down realistic recommendations and guidelines for in situ conservation. Eleven invited experts plus representatives of FAO, UNEP and Unesco attended the meeting, for which FAO provided the Secretariat. The report on the meeting was published in 1981 (FAO 1981a). UNEP also, indirectly (through IBPGR), supports the project mentioned below.

Programmes supported by IBPGR

In accordance with recommendations made by the 4th Session of the FAO Panel, and after approval by the IBPGR of a one-year exploratory phase, a survey on the needs and possibilities of international cooperation in the exploration, collection, evaluation and conservation of arid and semi-arid zone species for the improvement of rural living, was carried out by FAO in 1979. Eight countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America which had expressed an interest in the project were visited, species priorities were drawn up and needs for outside assistance were identified.

This exploratory phase, to which IBPGR contributed US$ 56 000, resulted in a report (FAO 1980b) and proposals for an early action programme, which became Phase II of the project, starting in 1981. Its main objectives are to act as a catalyst for gathering genetic information on arid and semi-arid zone species, and to aid countries in the practical application of any results which become available. IBPGR's contribution in 1981 was US$ 87 000 (US$ 135 000 in 1982, US$ 202 000 in 1983) 1, while FAO's direct contribution from its Regular Programme was US$ 114 000 in 1981 (US$ 104 000 in 1982, US$ 124 000 in 1983). Exploration and collection were concentrated on drought-resistant species in the genera Acacia, Antriplex, Cercidium and Eucalyptus and Prosopis (by 1983 a total of 131 provenances had been collected). Preparations were made for technical manuals on taxonomy, seed collection and handling and seed insects of the genera Acacia and Prosopis (six manuals were published in 1983). Seeds of Eucalyptus microtheca were distributed to cooperating countries for provenance trials. Eight developing countries (India, Pakistan, Yemen PDR, Sweden, Senegal, Mexico, Chile, Peru) are cooperating in the project and seed has, in addition been provided by CSIRO Canberra, CTFT France, CFI Oxford and the Land Development Authority of Israel. A list of the species included in the project is given in Appendix 6.

Forest Genetic Resources - Links with IUCN

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), an international non-governmental organization concerned with conservation, was founded in 1948 “… to promote scientifically-based action directed towards the sustainable use and conservation of natural resources”. The main, immediate aim of the organization is the establishment of a global network of national parks and protected areas for the conservation of species, including the widest possible range of their genetic varieties and the biotic communities and ecosystems of which they form part. Its work is carried forward with the aid of six Commissions, of which the activities of the Commission on National Parks and Protected Areas (CNPPA) and the Species Survival Commission (SSC) are of special relevance to the activities of FAO's Forestry Department. IUCN also accommodates the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The work of IUCN is undertaken largely at a strategic level, for example, through the publication and promotion of the World Conservation Strategy (IUCN 1980) and Red Data Books on Endangered Species; through a three-year programme of activities; and at the project level. In respect of projects, IUCN helps design and manage the projects financed by the World Wildlife Fund; IUCN also designs and undertakes projects of its own, many in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

In 1974, the Threatened Plants Committee (TPC) - working under SSC - was established to help IUCN gather data on threatened plants and to formulate action priorities and recommendations for regions, areas and species; the TPC has a small secretariat at Kew, U.K. From the data gathered, four types of publications are being produced: (i) Regional lists, including all species within a given region, found to be rare or threatened; (ii) Red Data Bulletins, covering a single country or island/island group; (iii) Red Data Sheets, for selected threatened species from all over the world (“case studies”); and (iv) reports on centres of endemism. A WANG‘VS’ computer has recently been installed at Kew to enable on-line information retrieval on any particular species or region required. This IUCN/WWF data base will also hold data on animal species and on National Parks.

Associated with the above activities, a programme is being developed between TPC and Botanic Gardens throughout the world, as well as between TPC and CNPPA, to find out and list threatened species already protected in Botanic Gardens, National Parks and similar protected areas.

Forest Genetic Resources - Links with Unesco

Of Unesco's programme the one most closely connected with the genetic resources work of FAO's Forestry Department is the ‘Man and the Biosphere’ programme (MAB). The main objective of the MAB programme, launched in 1971, is “… to encourage research on environmental problems, research which has direct and pragmatic applications for improved land use and improved resource management”.

Presently, the MAB programme focuses on four main priority areas: (i) the humid and sub-humid tropical zones; (ii) arid, semi-arid and other marginal lands; (iii) urban systems; and (iv) conservation linked to development.

The programme is coordinated through a small secretariat at Unesco Headquarters in Paris and run by MAB National Committees in the various cooperating countries. Funding for research and training programmes comes mostly from national sources.

MAB project 8 is entitled “The Conservation of Natural Areas and of the Genetic Material they Contain”. Within the framework of this project, a series of Biosphere Reserves have been established by national governments in accordance with criteria and recommended guidelines formulated by Unesco. One of the objectives of these reserves is “… to safeguard the genetic diversity of species on which their continuing evolution depends”.

Forest Genetic Resources - Links with IUFRO

The Forestry Department of FAO collaborates with IUFRO (the International Union of Forestry Research Organizations) on a regular basis; the cooperative links between the two organizations are recorded in article 3 of the statutes of IUFRO, and the Assistant Director-General, Forestry Department is an ex officio member of IUFRO's Executive Board.

The cooperation takes the form of joint activities, of which some of the more important ones in the field of genetic resources have been the World Consultations on Forest Tree Breeding (Stockholm 1963; Washington 1969; Canberra 1977); and the cooperation in the publication in 1981 of the Data Book on Endangered Forest Tree Species and Provenances (FAO, UNEP and IUFRO's WP on Forest Gene Resources Conservation).

Symposia/Workshops in this and related fields were organized by IUFRO WPs S2.02.08 (Tropical Species Provenances) and S2.03.01 (Breeding Tropical Species) and other Working Parties in 1971 in Gainesville (Florida, USA) and in 1973 in Nairobi (Kenya); in 1977 in Brisbane (Australia); and in 1980 in Aguas de Sao Pedro (Brazil).

Recent meetings on temperate species include that of WPs S2.02.05 (Douglas Fir Provenances); S2.02.06 (Lodgepole Pine Provenances); S2.02.12 (Sitka Spruce Provenances) and S2.02.14 (Abies provenances), in Vancouver (Canada) in 1978.

IUFRO Section S2.01.15, Reproductive Processes, recently organized an international Workshop on in vitro Cultivation of Forest Tree Species (Fontainebleau, France August/September 1981).

The 17th IUFRO World Congress in Kyoto, held in September 1981, included a component dedicated to forest genetic resources. The main constraint faced by IUFRO, especially in supporting developing country forestry research, is that it has had in the past no funds nor access to funds; hence, active participation by researchers and institutions has to be funded independently. Since the 17th Congress at Kyoto underlined the urgent need for increased forest research in the tropics, some modest external funding, including World Bank funds, has become available. This has enabled the appointment (in 1983) of a Special Coordinator for Developing Countries and preparations for a series of Research Planning Workshops.

Other developments at the Kyoto Congress were proposals for new Project Groups on Casuarina (P1.12.00) and on Nitrogen-fixing trees (P2.02.04), as well as Subject Groups on Species for Agroforestry(S1.07.07); Fast-growing Short Rotation Species (S1.05.10); Conservation of Gene Resources (S2.02.02); and Seed Orchards (S2.03.03).

1 Includes contribution to project from UNEP


The Panel noted that the Proposals for a Global Programme for Improved Use of Forest Genetic Resources (FAO 1975a) were for a five year period which expired at the end of 1979. It considered that there was no reason to revise the Global Programme in its original format, because funds are usually available only on an ad hoc basis and sometimes at short notice, so the greatest possible flexibility needs to be maintained in order to take advantage of funding opportunities as they occur. The essential need is for regular revision and up-dating of the table of priorities (by region, species and operation), which is carried out by the Panel at each of its sessions. The current revision of priorities is in Appendix 8.

In revising species priorities the Panel paid attention to the following:

  1. Increased need for action on fuelwood, food and fodder species and multi-purpose species for agroforestry, e.g. Leucaena spp.

  2. Increased need for action on species for arid and semi-arid areas, e.g. Casuarina spp. and including species for cold arid areas, shrubs as well as trees.

  3. Increased need for action of nitrogen-fixing species for use in agroforestry.

  4. Increased need for action on specialized groups of species, e.g. bamboos, rattans, mangroves.

  5. Increased need for action on endangered species endemic in islands.

Within species the Panel noted the importance of isolated and peripheral populations which are often the most endangered and which may contain allelic frequencies significantly different from those in the centre of the species range.

Consolidated lists of endangered species are shown in Appendix 7. The lists are from various publications and a number of species appear on more than one list. The species listed by the Panel (Appendix 7.1) consist mainly of species of known or potential value for social or economic use, whereas the other lists include taxonomic species whether or not they are of actual known value.

The Panel recognized that the number of species and the scope of operations outlined in Appendix 8 was far beyond the capacity of FAO's Regular Programme. Nevertheless, an authoritative global view of priorities should be of help to governments and to international and bilateral sources of aid. The Panel hoped that it would provide both a stimulus to financing operations in forest genetic resources and some technical guidance on how and where best to spend the funds available.


The Panel noted the advantages of conserving genetic resources in situ as part of the ecosystem. It allows secondary species without immediate commercial value to be conserved along with the primary species. It is the best method of conserving species with recalcitrant seeds or which are unsuitable for growing in ex situ monoculture stands. Especially in tropical moist forests, where as many as 100 species may occur on 0.4 ha, collection and planting in ex situ stands of so many species would be impracticable. Ex situ conservation can, however, be very useful for pioneer species which grow naturally in simple communities with few species, and is the only method presently available for species liable to become extinct in the wild and with recalcitrant seeds which cannot be stored. Ex situ stands also provide a convenient and accessible source of reproductive material for further selection and breeding. The two methods are complementary and many countries will need to use both.

Some guidelines for in situ conservation are now available (FAO 1981a) and they cover the siting, design and management of protected areas. The possibilities of combining production forestry with genetic conservation, through the use of genepool management units should not be neglected. A statement as to the genetic and ecological impact expected from management prescriptions should be included in all management plans as a matter of course, whether these are for production forests or for national parks and similar protected areas.

In extreme emergencies, where a species is threatened with imminent extinction, it will be necessary to mount a “rescue” operation involving the propagation of the species by any available method and its establishment in national arboreta and botanic gardens.

A sound strategy of conservation depends on adequate knowledge of the biology of the species. For example, shape and size of reserves for genetic conseration and minimum population size for long-term survival depend on reliable data on reproductive biology, breeding systems and patterns of distribution derived from forest inventory. For species occurring in complex ecosystems, knowledge is required not only on the autecology of the species but on the relationships with other species, e.g. pollinating animals and their habitats, parasites and symbionts, as well as the successional status of the species. The Panel emphasized yet again the need to intensify research, especially in the tropics, on the breeding systems, reproductive biology and synecology of important species.


The Panel noted that the provision of appropriate seed of good quality is absolutely basic to any programme of afforestation or agroforestry in developing countries. The cost of seed is only a small fraction of the total cost of establishing and managing tree plantations and provision of seed of the right source need not cost more than provision of seed from the wrong source. Seed procurement is therefore one of the best forms of assistance that can be given to developing countries because for a relatively small outlay, it provides the basis for self-help on a scale that could otherwise not be achieved. The new emphasis on fuelwood and multiple purpose species for agroforestry has opened up a whole new range of species about which little is known as to intraspecific genetic variation. There is, therefore, an urgent need to extend the operations of exploration, seed collection and evaluation of genetic resources which have been carried out successfully for a limited range of conifers, eucalypts and dry area Acacia and Prosopis spp., to a much wider range of genera, species and populations. As far as possible, internationally accepted standard methods of assessing trials should be used.

Seed procurement does not finish with the results of successful evaluation trials. Countries will wish to obtain larger quantities of seed of the populations identified as best adapted to their conditions, at the least to establish their own seed stands for future seed production, and if possible for operational planting. Procurement of “semi-bulk” quantities of seed for the establishment of conservation/seed stands, as carried out for some important tropical pines by FAO and DANIDA Forest Seed Centre, is an essential phase in the development of new and improved forest resources. It must be continued and expanded. Ultimately, each country with substantial planting programmes should have at least one seed centre with adequate facilities for collection, distribution and storage, so that it can ensure an efficient seed service to its own seed users and also contribute to international seed exchange. Where appropriate, external support to the establishment of national seed centres constitutes an economically and socially effective use of aid funds.

The Panel concluded that it was essential to continue and expand international and bilateral aid programmes for the exploration, collection and evaluation of forest genetic resoures, for seed procurement in the widest sense and for the establishment and maintenance of forest seed centres in developing countries.

Many forest seed centres will be concerned primarily or exclusively with storing seeds in good condition from one seed harvest until the subsequent planting season(s). For species which seed annually, the storage period will be a matter of months, for those which seed periodically it may be as much as 5–10 years. However, in the case of orthodox seeds, long-term storage for conservation of genetic diversity is also a possible alternative or supplement to conservation as whole trees. The Panel noted the results of a FAO survey on the feasibility of long-term 1 seed storage as a method of conservation of forest germ-plasm, which are summarized below:

  1. The technical aspects of long-term storage of tree seed samples is essentially the same as that for agricultural seeds; there is no big difference between tree seeds and crop seeds per se. The big difference is between “recalcitrant” 2 and “orthodox” seeds. Foresters could, and should, arrange to share existing agricultural facilities for long-term seed storage, as the requirements for storage conditions are, generally speaking, the same.

  2. Long-term seed storage is likely to play a complementary role to growing collections (in situ and ex situ conservation stands) in the conservation of forest genetic resources, because of the following reasons:

    1. With the exception of a few genera in common commercial use (Cupressus, Eucalyptus, Fagus, Larix, Populus, Pinus, Picea, Quercus, Tectona, etc.) less is known about the storage properties of tree seeds than about horticultural and agricultural seeds. Several widely-used tree genera in e.g. Fagaceae, Salicaceae and Araucariaceae, are known to have recalcitrant seeds and are not suitable for longer-term storage.

    2. There is little empirical evidence that even orthodox tree seeds can be stored for periods longer than 30 years. Thus, nearly all tree species of interest have a natural life longer than the seed can be stored with certainty, and most trees even produce seed over a longer period. On the other hand, there is equally little evidence that they cannot be stored for long periods, if prescribed conditions of low moisutre content and sub-zero temperatures are used.

    3. Plant gene banks should regenerate their seed collections whenever the viability of an accession falls by 5 or 10% for homogeneous (pure line) and heterogeneous seedlots, respectively. This is based on the fact that any fall in viability will almost certainly be accompanied by some change in the genetic constitution, as loss in viability is directly associated with genetic mutations. In heterogeneous seedlots, loss of viability during storage will, in addition, tend to delete some genetic components from the population. Even if not deleted, those components of the seedlot which have lost more viability, will show considerably reduced physiological vigour, and be more vulnerable to environmental stress (Roberts and Ellis 1981).

      With the long vegetative period that most tree species have before they produce viable seed, seed regeneration by growing a crop and re-collecting will usually be so slow as to be impracticable.

      Another difficulty, to be mentioned in this context, is the difficulty to make available for utilization forest tree seed stored in a gene bank. The amount of seed kept in long-term storage must necessarily be limited. The time between the moment when the need for larger quantities of seed from a specific accession is identified and the time when the request from the user can be met, will often be unacceptably long.

  3. The role of seed storage in the conservation of forest genetic resources was seen mainly as:

    1. a temporary measure, until the material can be established safely in a number of living collections (ex situ conservation stands):

    2. as a safety measure, keeping a limited number of seedlots in store as an insurance against disaster, or conserving species of no immediate economic value threatened with imminent extinction.

      Many correspondents stressed the fact that evolution comes to a halt in long-term storage. Ex situ conservation stands, on the other hand, will evolve in response to natural selection; however, when established on a range of sites and in varying environmental conditions, most genes and gene combinations will be conserved. This kind of evolutionary conservation was generally considered to be preferable in forestry to the static conservation that long-term seed storage represents.

Long-term storage for recalcitrant species is impossible in the present state of knowledge. The Panel recognized the possibilities of in vitro culture methods which may in the future provide a means of rapid clonal propagation of certain plants for international exchange and for long-term storage of germ-plasm. It was unanimous in emphasizing the need for a major effort in research on storage and handling of tree seeds, especially of tropical species, and on in vitro cultural methods. Seed problems range from the storage of recalcitrants to the incidence of seed-borers on dry area species.

The increasing exchange of forest seed between countries which the Panel considered both inevitable and desirable, calls for more liberal regulations for importing and exporting seed. Although some quarantine restrictions e.g. on the movement of living plants are absolutely essential, the Panel considered there was a strong case for countries to review their quarantine regulations for forest seeds with the aim of increasing their efficiency e.g. through the elimination of unnecessary phyto-sanitary treatments.

1 The exact meaning of long-term is difficult to define; however, one of the correspondents defined it as spanning a period of time longer than one rotation. This seems to be a sensible definition, which helps to place the discussion into perspective.

2 Seeds which are killed if their moisture content is reduced below some relatively high value, and which therefore do not conform to the rules which can generally be applied to (orthodox) seeds. (King and Roberts 1979).


On the assumption that the funds available for seed procurement and genetic resources under FAO's Regular Programme in 1982/83 would be US$ 93 000, the Panel recommended that it should be distributed as follows:

  1. A total of US$ 68 000 for Arid and Semi-arid zone multipurpose species, distributed among nine institutes or departments as follows:

CONAFChile10 000 – 12 000
INIFMexico  9 000 – 10 000
INFORPeru  8 000 – 10 000
CNRFSenegal10 000 – 11 000
FRISudan  7 000 –   8 000
Agr.Res.CentrePDR Yemen  5 000 –   7 000
FRIIndia  8 000 – 10 000
LDAIsrael  1 000 –   2 000
FDPakistan  5 000 –   6 000
  1. US$ 1 500 to FD Indonesia for Acacia mangium (plus US$ 3 500 brought forward from 1981)

  2. US$ 10 000 – 12 000 to Office of Forests, Papua New Guinea for Acacia mangium and Eucalyptus deglupta.

  3. US$ 6 000 – 8 000 to CSIRO Canberra for Acacia spp. and Eucalyptus spp (plus US$ 8 000 brought forward from 1981).

  4. US$ 5 000 – 7 000 to CTFT France for West African hardwoods.

  5. US$ 2 000 – 5 000 to CFI Oxford for South and Central American species.

  6. US$ 2 000 to US Seed Centre Macon for sub-tropical species for developing countries.

  7. US$ 1 500 for miscellaneous seed collections.

The Panel commended the value of “Forest Genetic Resources Information” as a vehicle for distributing information of international interest to a wide readership and recommended that FAO continue its periodic publication in English, French and Spanish. It also welcomed the proposal to issue an expanded edition of the Data Book on Endangered Forest Tree Species and Provenances.

The Panel welcomed the extension into the operational phase of the Forestry Department's IBPGR/UNEP supported Project on Genetic Resources of Arid and Semi-arid Zone Tree Species for the Improvement of Rural Living. The project rightly gives priority to the two important genera of Acacia and Prosopis, but the Panel noted that work could usefully be extended to additional species and genera such as Casaurina. Studies could also be extended from the hot dry areas to the cold dry areas such as Central Asia or South America, which have special problems of their own.

The Panel noted that, with the increase in both the Regular Programme of FAO and in externally funded projects in Forest Genetic Resources, such as those supported by UNEP and IBPGR, the volume of work involved in central coordination and administration by FAO's Forestry Department has increased greatly. Yet the single post devoted to Tree Improvement and Forest Genetic Resources has remained static over the past decade. This is in contrast to the several-fold increase in staff concerned with genetic resources of crop plants over the same period. The Panel expressed the hope that FAO's Forestry Department would take early action to strengthen the staff resources available for coordination of the Global Programme, so that immediate and effective use may be made of opportunities for exploration, collection, evaluation, conservation and utilization of forest genetic resources. Such action on genetic resources would be an appropriate follow-up of the recent FAO/UNEP survey of tropical forest resources (FAO 1980c).


The Panel stressed the need for it to maintain its responsibilities for advice in the central direction and coordination of the Global programme on Forest Genetic Resources. The present membership maintained a reasonable geographic balance and was able to keep in touch with progress in most countries in the various regions.

Periodicity of sessions should remain as before. The Panel agreed that the secretariat should decide the exact dates of the next session later.


BOLAND, D.J. and TURNBULL, J.W. 1981 Selection of Australian trees other than eucalypts for trials as fuelwood species in developing countries. Aust. For. 44(4), 235–246.

CSIRO 1983 Casuarina ecology, management and utilization. Proc. Wkshp. Canberra 1981. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Australia.

FAO 1975a Proposals for a Global Programme for Improved use of Forest Genetic Resources. Forest Genetic Resources Information No.4, 3–54. FAO, Rome.

FAO 1975b The Methodology of Conservation of Forest Genetic Resources. Report on a pilot study. FAO/UNEP project No. 0604-73-003. FAO, Rome.

FAO 1980a Mejora Genética de Arboles Forestales. Estudio FAO: Montes 20. FAO, Rome.

FAO 1980b Genetic Resources of Tree Species in Arid and Semi-arid Areas. FAO, Rome.

FAO 1980c Tropical Forest Resources. FAO Forestry Paper 30. FAO, Rome.

FAO 1981a Report on the FAO/UNEP Expert Consultation on In Situ Conservation of Forest Genetic Resources (Rome 2–4 December 1980). FAO, Rome.

FAO 1981b Data Book on Endangered Forest Tree Species and Provenances. FO: MISC/81/11. FAO, Rome.

GREAVES, A. 1978 Descriptions of seed sources and collections for provenances of Pinus caribaea. Trop.For.Paper No.12, CFI, Oxford, 98 pp.

GREAVES, A. 1979 Descriptions of seed sources and collections for provenances of Pinus oocarpa. Trop.For.Paper No.13, CFI, Oxford, 144 pp.

IUCN 1978 The IUCN Plant Red Data Book (Eds. G. Lucas and H. Synge). IUCN, Switzerland, 540 pp.

KING, M.W. and ROBERTS, E.H. 1979 The storage of recalcitrant seeds - achievements and possible approaches. AGP:IBPGR/79/44. FAO, Rome.

LEIGH, J., GRIGGS, J. and HARDLEY, W. 1981 Rare or threatened Australian plants. Special Publication No. 7, Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, Canberra.

NIKLES, D.G. 1979 Genetic Improvement of Tropical Lowland Conifers: the needs and possibilities of international cooperation. FO: MISC/79/25. FAO, Rome.

PALMBERG, C. 1981a A vital fuelwood gene pool is in danger. Unasylva Vol.33, No.133, 22–30.

PALMBERG, C. 1981b Genetic Resources of Arboreal Fuelwood Species for the Improvement of Rural Living. Paper for FAO/UNEP/IBPGR Technical Conference on Crop Genetic Resources (Rome 6–10 April 1981).

PRYOR, L.D. 1981 Australian endangered species: eucalypts. Special publication No. 5, Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, Canberra.

ROBBINS, A.M.J. and HUGHES, C.E. 1983 Provenance regions for Pinus caribaea and Pinus occarpa within the Republic of Honduras. Trop.For.Paper No.18, CFI, Oxford/COHDEFOR, Honduras/DANIDA FSC, 91 pp.

ROBERTS, E.H. and ELLIS, R.H. 1981 The prediction of seed deterioration during storage. Paper for FAO/UNEP/IBPGR Technical Conference on Crop Genetic Resources (Rome 6–10 April 1981).

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