FAO provides technical support to member countries’ national institutions in the conservation, management and sustainable use of forest genetic resources. In line with FAO Strategic Plan for Forestry, and in close coordination with international partners, the focus is on the transfer of information and technologies, through a wide range of communication tools, publications, networking and twinning mechanisms. The main activities carried out in the 2002/2003 biennium are summarized below.
1. Exchange, evaluation and assessment of genetic resources, in collaboration with national institutes and international organizations, such as the International Union of Forestry Research Organizations (IUFRO), relevant Centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (Future Harvest Centres), and the Danida Forest Seed Centre, Denmark, aim at exploring, conserving and better utilizing forest tree genetic diversity, focusing on socio-economically important species for the dry and humid tropics. Recent activities have concentrated mainly on arid zones species, including Acacia, neem and Prosopis. FAO and DFSC have continued to assist national institutions in the evaluation of arid zone trials of Acacia and Prosopis. The main results of the introduction programme are now available on line. Within the framework of Silva Mediterranea, FAO and the French National Institute on Agronomic Research (INRA) collaborate with countries in the Near East to review earlier introductions of Mediterranean conifer species.
2. Biosecurity in Forestry: short-term and long-term effects of forest tree germplasm introduction are increasingly considered through a biosecurity perspective. A number of global reviews and regional case studies have been commissioned to assess the phenomenon of “invasiveness” by introduced forest trees. Special attention is being given to Prosopis species in the Sahel and the Near East, through FAO intersectoral working groups. In partnership with IPGRI, technical guidelines for the safe movement of Pinus and Acacia germplasm have been published and digitalized. Biosecurity aspects also include a review of genetic modification developments and applications in the forestry sector.
3. Seed and Forest Reproductive Material: an overview of forest reproductive material has been produced, highlighting traditional issues and pointing the development of new challenges and issues. Legal implications of property rights and the preparation of material transfer agreements are closely followed and reported upon. In 2003, a review of extension manuals of relevance to forest seed and germplasm collection, storage and use, was commissioned and will be finalized in collaboration with ICRAF and DFSC. The work is complemented by the digitization of main public-domain extension materials on crop trees, forest trees and trees used in agro-forestry systems. Work is on-going to provide data and statistical information on the global status and trends of forest seed supply and demand. The study will complement the work of other FAO units working on global forest assessments; global wood supply and demand outlook studies; and status and trends of planted forests.
4. Conservation of genetic resources actively contributes to elaborating forest genetic resources conservation methodologies, through the evaluation in the field of in situ and ex situ stands of native or introduced species. The Danida Forest Seed Centre provides significant technical and financial support; results and conclusions of individual species-specific programmes are being published by DFSC. The experience gained is been synthesized and summarized in a series of technical guides to forest genetic resources conservation that FAO, the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) and DFSC are finalizing. The first guide, focusing on in situ conservation, is available in English and Spanish, and will be translated into Chinese and French. Support was also provided to an international initiative for the genetic conservation of Mexican island populations of Pinus radiata.
5. Regional workshops: as a follow-up to recommendations made by the 13th Session of the Committee on Forestry (COFO) in 1997, FAO has been supporting the preparation of status assessment on forest genetic resources at national and regional levels, and the organization of eco-regional workshops for their conservation and sustainable use. The process is aimed at assisting countries in reviewing the situation, defining priorities and needs, and identifying areas for coordinated action, focusing on a limited number of priority species and activities. In collaboration with international, regional and national organizations, workshops have been convened in Central America, Cuba and Mexico (2002) and Central Africa (2003), with the financial support of the FAO-Netherlands Partnership Programme on Agrobiodiversity. FAO also provided inputs to the Inception Workshop of the Forest Genetic Resources Programme for Asia Pacific Region, launched by IPGRI, APAFRI, and the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia. In the process of the workshops, a number of documents have been prepared, including country assessments, regional syntheses, and eco-regional action plans. This information is being evaluated, published, disseminated, translated, and posted on-line at the FAO Forestry Homepage. Data is also being used to update the species/country based REFORGEN information system.
6. Under International collaboration, FAO works with IUFRO, Future Harvest (CGIAR) centres (notably IPGRI, the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF)), the CBD Secretariat, universities, national forest services and research institutes. IUFRO’s SylvaVoc is finalizing a glossary of terms frequently used in the forest genetic resources field, with definitions in English, French, German and Spanish; the glossary is now available on line. FAO provided inputs to, and closely followed, the background of the extended work programme on forest biological diversity by the CBD Secretariat. The programme, adopted by the sixth Conference of the Parties in The Hague in 2002, contains provisions for the preparation of national and regional status and action plans on forest genetic resources. FAO will provide a resource person to Ad-Hoc Technical Expert Group meetings to review the implementation of the work programme on forest biological diversity.
7. FAO provides focused assistance to several field projects, including projects with components in seed collection, production, handling and exchange; tree-improvement and breeding; ecosystem and genetic resource conservation; and the integration of genetic conservation in forest management practice and protected area management. Countries include China, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Namibia and Turkey. A project in North China is considering the sustainability of poplar shelterbelts through short- and long-term approaches to the control of insect pest Anaplophora glabripennis (Asian long-horn beetle).
8. Information activities have developed further with the upgrading of REFORGEN, which is being transferred to the FAO Forestry Department information system. As far as the new system, still under development, allowed, new information originating from regional workshops, have been incorporated in data base. Country-based information, case studies are printed and posted on line in form of working papers, base data from which more focused, detailed, synthetic analyses and assessments will be carried out.
9. FAO annually publishes a news bulletin, Forest Genetic Resources (in 3,800 copies, in three languages). Since the last Session of the Panel, issues No 29 and 30 have been published and preparations for issue No 31 have progressed. Recent bulletins and other relevant information are now posted on the Internet at the FAO forest genetic resources home page, with an updated index, and it is planned to digitalize the entire collection in the coming months. The revised homepage contains detailed information on programmes and activities carried out in the field of forest genetic resources; and links to the work of associated programmes within and outside of FAO. The Report of the Twelfth Session of the Panel of Experts on Forest Gene Resources (2001) is available in English, French and Spanish, in printed version, and on the Internet, with the Regional Updates 2001 provided by Panel members.
4 Based on Information Note FORGEN/03/4