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General Considerations

1. There is today a growing realization at national and international levels of the value of forests as a renewable resource and of their role in the production of a range of goods and environmental services. The latter include the role of the tropical forests as a source of genetic materials for the adaptation and improvement of plant species presently under cultivation and use, and those whose value is yet to be ascertained.

2. Increased populations and pressure for social and economic development in most tropical countries contribute to a continuing trend of diminishing areas under forest cover despite concern for the tropical forest. They also severely limit the possibilities for extending existing systems of fully protected areas.

3. While the exceptional biological diversity of tropical forests constitutes a unique national and global asset, the extent and integrity of this diversity are therefore rapidly diminishing.

4. The continuing availability of diversity and genetic resources is fundamental for the sustainable development of nations. Conservation of genetic resources of forest trees and other woody species is closely related to all other forms of diversity, and is essential for sustaining the productive and protective values of the forest.

5. In spite of their importance at national as well as local levels, forests containing socio-economically valuable tree species have rarely been targeted when planning and establishing Protected Areas. Therefore, managed production forests play a key role in programmes aimed at the conservation of genetic resources of such tree species and are a necessary complement to conservation efforts undertaken through Protected Area management.

6. Management interventions in the forest can be aimed mainly at the production of timber, wood and other products, the protection of soil and water, or the conservation of biological diversity and genetic resources. Productive and protective purposes can be rendered compatible with conservation concerns through sound planning and inter-sectoral coordination of activities at the national level.

7. International concern for the conservation of biological diversity is likely to lead to increased support to tropical countries through both aid and trade channels. Since it is now widely recognized that the Protected Area system on its own is insufficient to provide the necessary geographical and biological coverage, such assistance may in the future be directed increasingly to support forest management carried out with due concern for genetic conservation.

Conservation of Forest Genetic Resources

8. Genetic resources are associated with the different levels of diversity that exist in nature, from ecosystems to species, populations, individuals and genes. These levels interact closely and all must be considered when conservation objectives are defined and when corresponding action is specified.

9. Conservation of genetic resources in situ is dependent on maintaining the essential functional components of the ecosystem. It implies the planned and systematic management of identified target species in a network of conservation areas which will include Strictly Protected Areas as well as managed forests and multiple-use reserves.

10. Tropical forests are dynamic and subject to change through natural disturbance and succession; the aim of conservation is not to freeze a given state but to contain a dynamically evolving system.

11. Lack of information on population biology, reproductive systems, variation and genetics of most tropical tree species limits the possibilities for the deliberate management of their genetic resources. Maintaining a broad genetic base through the conservation of a range of provenances of target species is likely to be the safest available option until more adequate data are available.

12. Conservation efforts must be planned at the national level, but close linkages to regional and global efforts are necessary to ensure success.

Conservation of Genetic Resources and Forest Management

13. The sustained utilization of forests to meet present-day needs coupled with the maintenance of a network of areas dedicated to the protection of ecosystems and their functions, provides the only solution for lasting, genetic conservation. Harmonizing conservation and management for the production of goods and services is especially important in relation to tropical tree species which are not included in plantation and domestication programmes.

14. The domination of short-term economic and market forces over ecological and technical considerations have frequently been the cause of past failures to attain sustainability in natural forest management and conservation of the species being utilized in the tropics.

15. Information on forest composition and growth is critically important for both sustainable production and genetic conservation; broadly-based inventories, including botanical surveys, regeneration sampling and information on non-timber forest products, can be combined to serve both objectives.

16. Some silvicultural operations, including canopy manipulations to favour certain species and individuals, can lead to a reduction in the overall diversity of tree species in a stand. However, these practices might also be skilfully used to maintain or restore diversity, in selected areas.

17. Logging is at present commonly the only large-scale management intervention in the tropical forest. It may either reduce or enhance species and intra-specific diversity. It may furthermore contribute to the depletion or conservation of the genetic resources of the principal species being utilized, depending on the timing, intensity, frequency and discrimination employed, and on the effectiveness of protection and management of subsequent regeneration.

18. Large scale intensive logging, on short felling cycles, with poor harvesting control, may alter the species composition and may damage both forest structure and site quality. Logging damage is indiscriminate in its impact on genetic resources but heavy logging tends to enhance the opportunity for pioneer species. Should this be the case, special attention may have to be paid to the conservation of rare populations and species of later successional stages.

19. While harvesting of mature trees of good quality is among the stated objectives of forest management aimed at the production of timber, pressing market demands coupled with inadequate forest management practices may lead to highly selective harvesting having negative (dysgenic) effects on the future development of the stand. Silviculture rightly calls for harvesting of “the best”, but this must not be done without due consideration to regeneration potential and the quality of the next generation crop.

20. The harvesting of non-timber forest products will widen the range of management objectives and will diversify management interventions. Hence it may increase the possibilities for sustainable management and conservation of genetic resources both by broadening the range of species contributing to production, and strengthening support of local communities for forest conservation through the provision of direct benefits to people living in or close to the forest.

Action Required

21. Continuity of management based on adequate information on forest composition and dynamics, is essential to meet the production and conservation objectives of areas presently under forest. Forest management should be carried out within the framework of established plans acceptable to all land users and executed by well-trained, informed and motivated staff.

22. The potential contribution of each area of production forest to the conservation of diversity and genetic resources of its component species, and the setting of relative priorities between areas in terms of production and conservation objectives, must be determined as part of an integrated strategy, based on national policies, with appropriate regional and international linkages.

23. Integrated action extends beyond the management of production forests and Protected Areas, to aspects of forest industry, marketing and trade, and to other sectors in the context of national development policies.

24. Involvement of local people living in or benefiting directly from the forest is fundamental to success of any conservation and management efforts, in the short as well as in the long term.

25. The formulation of a National Strategy for the Conservation of Forest Genetic Resources is the most appropriate means to secure the necessary integration of action at the national level, and to define appropriate institutional mechanisms for its implementation.

26. The formulation of such a National Strategy for Conservation is an essential nucleus for broader action in the conservation of terrestrial biological diversity. It will also provide a solid and credible basis for the substantial international support which will be required to meet national and global conservation objectives.

27. The scale and complexity of the data needed to meet national conservation, protection and production objectives will require coordination through some form of a national conservation data centre, which should help facilitate and stimulate the collection of related data, make such data easily accessible for field implementation and use, and provide international links.

28. Specific forest management systems must be decided for each forest or unit of management in accordance with their specific roles under the National Strategy for Conservation. This will help achieve an appropriate balance within the national forest estate as a whole, with due weight to ecological as well as socio-economic objectives.

29. Special attention and priority may have to be given to the conservation of forest genetic resources in certain areas of the productive forest estate, for example at the edges of a species' geographical or ecological range, where the populations are likely to be genetically distinct, and where they may be particularly vulnerable to disruption.

30. Special attention must further be paid to the generally species-rich secondary forests in various stages of recovery, and to the conservation of genetic resources of species characteristic of the mature-phase or climax forest. This may at times involve the adoption of some constraints on management for production, in specific areas of the natural range of selected species or communities, at any given time.

31. Many practical aspects of concession allocation, duration and operation, of critical importance to sustainable forest management for timber and other products, also decisively influence possibilities for the conservation of genetic resources. Special ecological, taxonomic or other advice may be needed in relation to conservation concerns, for example in the location and distribution pattern of seed trees or patches of forest to be left temporarily unlogged, to ensure regeneration and maintenance of desirable levels of inter and intra-specific diversity.

32. In all aspects of forest management and conservation the failure to comply with prevailing management prescriptions has been to date a common cause of unnecessary damage to site, growing stock and regeneration. Strict monitoring and control, based on criteria specified in corresponding forest management plans and the National Strategy for Conservation drawn up with due concern to environmental, technical, social and economic concerns, should be carried out on a continuing basis in each management unit and at national level.

33. Intensified research into many aspects of taxonomy, forest dynamics and the functioning of ecosystems and individual tree species (including reproductive biology), are needed to meet both production and conservation objectives. Prioritization and coordination of research under the National Strategy for Conservation are essential to optimize use of the limited scientific resources available.


AlleleAny of the different forms of a gene which may occupy the same position (locus) on a chromosome (see also gene).
ApomixisReproduction without fertilization, so that the progeny are genetically identical to the parent.
AutecologyThe ecology of an individual species as opposed to communities.
Biological diversityThe variety of life forms, the ecological roles they perform and the genetic diversity they contain.
BiomeMajor regional ecological community.
ClimaxTerminal stage of ecological succession.
ChromosomeThreadlike body found within the nucleus consisting primarily of DNA (desoxyribonucleic acid) and a protein sheath, and containing the genes responsible for most hereditary traits.
ChorologyDescription and delimitation of the distribution of a species or other taxon.
CommunityA group of different organisms in close interdependency and inhabiting a common environment.
Conservation of genetic resourcesThe management of human use of genetic resourcs so that they may yield the greatest sustainable benefit to the present generation, while maintaining their potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations see also in situ conservation; ex situ conservation).
DisclimaxA successional stage maintained short of the true climax by e.g. fire.
EcosystemA community with its physical environment, interacting as a functional system.
EndemismNatural occurrence confined to a particular locality.
Ex situ conservationAny conservation method that entails removal of individual plants or propagating material (seed, pollen, tissue) from its site of natural occurrence, i.e. conservation “off-site” in gene banks as seed, tissue or pollen; in plantations; or in other live collections, such as ex situ conservation stands.
GeneBasic unit of inheritance; the physical entity being transmitted during the reproductive process, and influencing hereditary traits among the offspring. Genes can exist in different forms or states, called alleles.
Gene flowExchange of genes between populations owing to the dispersal of gamets or zygotes.
Gene poolThe total sum of genetic material of an interbreeding population.
Genetic diversityThe heritable component of variation. Genetic diversity occurs at the gene level, the individual level, the population level, the species level and the ecosystem level. Genetic diversity is one component of biological diversity (see above)
Genetic driftRandom changes occurring by chance in the genetic make-up of small, isolated populations.
Genetic resourcesThe economic, scientific or social value of the heritable materials contained within and between species.
GenotypeGenetic constitution of an individual (particular set of alleles).
GuildA group of species having similar ecological requirements and roles in the community e.g. pioneer species.
InbreedingMating of closely related individuals.
In situ conservationConservation of genetic resources of target species “on-site”, within the natural or original ecosystem in which they occur, or on the site formerly occupied by that ecosystem. Although most frequently applied to populations regenerated naturally, in situ conservation may include artificial regeneration whenever planting or sowing is done without conscious selection and in the same area where the seed or other reproductive materials were collected.
IsozymeVariants of a given enzyme performing the same catalytic function but exhibiting the presence of different genes (syn. isoenzyme).
Keystone speciesOrganisms which are critical in the functioning of an ecosystem (syn. keystone mutualists, pivotal species; see also Chapter I, page 6).
MutationSudden heritable change in the gene or chromosome constitution causing changes in number, structure, size or sequence.
OriginFor an indigenous stand of trees the origin is the place in which the trees are growing; for a non-indigenous stand the origin is the place from which the reproductive materials were originally introduced (see also provenance).
OutbreedingMating of non-related (or distantly related) individuals.
PhenotypeThe observable character of an individual resulting from interaction of the genotype with the environment.
PopulationA group of interbreeding individuals occupying a particular area and usually separated to some degree from other similar groups.
ProvenancePopulation of a species referred to by its locality of occurrence; the place in which any stand of (indigenous or non-indigenous) trees is growing (see also origin).
Secondary forestForests which have suffered various degrees of disturbance as a result of shifting cultivation, or various intensities of logging, as opposed to supposedly virgin forest, or mature-phase forest which has achieved more or less the climax stage of development.
SpeciesOne or more populations, the individuals of which can interbreed, but which cannot exchange genes with members of other species.
StandA community of trees possessing sufficient uniformity of composition, constitution, age, spatial arrangement or condition, to be distinguishable from adjacent communities, so forming a silvicultural or management entity.
StochasticFounded on the properties of probability and chance or random variation.
Sustainable forest managementThe administrative, economic, social, legal, technical and scientific aspects of the conservation and use of forests within the framework of a technically sound and politically accepted overall land use plan. It implies various degrees of human intervention, ranging from action aimed at safeguarding and maintaining the forest ecosystem and its functions, to favouring given socially or economically valuable species or groups of species for the improved production of goods and services. The term can only be more precisely defined in terms of the management objectives of a particular forest, however, it should always incorporate the principles of sustainable development, to “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. It therefore has essential objectives in common with the conservation of genetic resources. Both concepts can be most effectively and efficiently applied in the context of the national forest estate as a whole.
Tropical Moist ForestThe closed high forests in the tropics, where the dry season is short (4 months) or non-existent. It includes both rain forests and monsoon (seasonal) forests.


ECGEcosystem Conservation Group (presently includes representatives of FAO, Unesco, UNEP, UNDP, IUCN, WWF)
FAOFood and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
IUCNThe World Conservation Union (earlier known as the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources)
UNDPUnited Nations Development Programme
UNEPUnited Nations Environment Programme
UnescoUnited Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
WWFWorld Wide Fund for Nature (earlier known as World Wildlife Fund International)
WRIWorld Resources Institute

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