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I. Introduction

FAO provides technical support to national institutes in member countries in the management of forest genetic resources, including their conservation and sustainable use. The focus, in coordination with FAO's international partners, is on the transfer of information, know-how and technologies, through a wide range of communication tools (publications, electronic means), and through networking and twinning mechanisms. Activities on various aspects of forest genetic resources are described below. Summarized financial statements for 2000-2001 are available in Appendix 6. Information on the progress of country and regional assessments, and support to regional forest genetic resources workshops, is detailed in Appendix 7. Additional information on data management and dissemination is provided in Appendix 8.

Collection, 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, with a view to 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 Azadirachta indica (neem) - see Annex 4. A workshop on data analysis was organized for members of the International Neem Network (INN) coordinated by FAO, at the Arid Forest Research Institute, Jodhpur, India, in 2001. In the 2001-2002 workplan of the INN, priority has been given to completing country-based trial assessments and reviewing the adaptability of neem provenances in different eco-regions of the world. Developments on international conservation programmes related to neotropical mahoganies, in particular in the framework of CITES, have been closely followed, and some support has been provided to activities in Central America/Mexico. FAO and DFSC have continued to assist national institutions in the evaluation of arid zone trials of Acacia and Prosopis, and discussions have been held within FAO towards the preparation of an Inter-Departmental Internet site on Prosopis species.

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 conservation stands of native or introduced species. The Danida Forest Seed Centre provides additional technical and financial support; the programme is carried out in close partnership with participating national institutes. Field work has been completed and results and conclusions of individual species-specific programmes will be published in 2002. The experiences gained have also 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 the Danida Forest Seed Centre are finalizing. Besides general considerations and concepts, the guide will include volumes on in situ and ex situ conservation. Volume 2 of the guide, focusing on in situ conservation, is currently (2001) being printed in English, and translated in French and Spanish.

Wildlife and protected area management are part of the programme on Forest Conservation, Biodiversity and Wildlife, in the Forest Resources Division. Major issues currently addressed are: how protected area management and sustainable rural development can be reconciled; management effectiveness in protected areas; effectiveness of biodiversity conservation; and sustainable use of wildlife, especially in relation to the bushmeat trade. The programme provides technical backstopping to projects in Iran, Republic of Congo and Syria. It also assists member countries to fulfil the requirements of international conventions, including CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora); RAMSAR (the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat); the Bonn Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Information activities have developed further with the on-line opening of the World-Wide Information System on Forest Genetic Resources (REFORGEN), with a view to supporting policy and technical decisions for genetic conservation, at national, regional and international levels. The database contains information provided by 146 countries, on over 1600 tree and shrub species. Information, originally obtained through questionnaires sent to national institutions, is increasingly complemented by data available in country reports prepared for regional assessments (see paragraph 8 below). Various partnership programmes have contributed to the updating of REFORGEN (see also Appendix 8).

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. In partnership with IPGRI, work has continued towards the development of technical guidelines for the safe movement of Pinus and Acacia germplasm. In 2000 and 2001, FAO assisted the CBD Secretariat in preparing a report documenting status and trends of forest biological diversity. FAO resource persons were also provided to meetings of the Ad-Hoc Technical Expert Group on Forest Biological Diversity, convened by the secretariat of the CBD, in preparation of meetings of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA-7, November 2001) and the Conference of the Parties (COP-6, March 2002) which will address forest biological diversity issues.

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 for forest genetic resources at national and regional levels, and the organization of a series of eco-regional workshops towards the preparation of regional forest genetic resources action plans. The process is aimed at assisting countries in 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, eco-regional workshops for the conservation, management and sustainable use of forest genetic resources have been convened in Sahelian Africa (1998), the South Pacific (1999), and Southern and Eastern Africa (SADC countries, in 2000). Similar workshops are planned in 2002 in Central Africa and Central America, with support from an FAO-Netherlands Partnership Programme. In the process of the preparation of the workshops, a number of documents have been finalized, including country assessments, eco-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 on species and institutions is also being used to update the REFORGEN information system.

The Report of the Eleventh Session of the Panel of Experts on Forest Gene Resources (1999) is available in English, French and Spanish, in printed version, and has been posted on the Internet. The Panel highlighted a number of priority actions for FAO's work, and updated lists of important and major tree species, by region of the world (see also Appendix 4).

FAO's technical assistance provides focused assistance to forestry field projects, including projects with components in seed collection, production, handling and exchange; tree-improvement and breeding; ecosystem and forest genetic resource conservation; and the integration of genetic conservation in forest management practice and protected area management. For example, technical assistance provided to a Chinese-Belgium collaborative project in Northern China is contributing to the conservation in situ and ex situ of indigenous tree resources, tree improvement and testing programmes, and the preparation of a monograph on Populus simonii.

FAO annually publishes the newsbulletin, Forest Genetic Resources (in 3,800 copies, in three languages). Since the last Session of the Panel, issue No 28 has been published; issue No 29 is in press in English, French and Spanish; and preparations for issue No 30 (2002) have began. Recent bulletins and other relevant information are posted on the Internet at the FAO forest genetic resources home page, with an updated index. The revised homepage contains detailed information on programmes and activities carried out by FAO in the field of forest genetic resources and links to the work of associated programmes within and outside of FAO. In particular, emerging issues, including the applications of modern biotechnologies in the forestry sector; biosecurity; and legal implications of property rights and the preparation of material transfer agreements, are closely followed and reported upon.

5 Based on Information Note FORGEN/01/4

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