Seedlings in the nursery, Thailand. Photo: Masakazu Kashio

Forest genetic resources

Genetic variation - at the level of species, populations, individuals and genes - is an important part of biological diversity, since it is the basis of evolution and the adaptation of species to changes in the environment. Variation is also essential for selection and breeding to meet present and future human needs.

The term forest genetic resources refers to the actual or potential value of the hereditary variation contained in forest trees and shrubs. The field of forest genetic resources is undergoing significant changes. Traditionally concerned with technical issues of genetic conservation, tree improvement and seed supply, its scope is expanding to include scientific advances in biotechnology and legal developments concerning access rights to genetic resources, which bring new possibilities and challenges. The field is driven not only by the forest sector, but also increasingly by the environmental sector and by developments in crop plant genetic resources.

Since most of the forest genetic resources worldwide are found in natural, unmanaged forests, sustainable forest management practices have a direct influence on forest tree genetic diversity. Similarly, there is an urgent need to take genetic considerations into account in biological diversity conservation and the environmental agenda.

In this rapidly changing environment, FAO provides technical support to member countries' national institutes in the conservation, management and sustainable use of forest genetic resources. The focus is on the transfer of factual information and up-to-date technology, through a wide range of communication tools and publications and through networking and twinning mechanisms.

last updated:  Thursday, February 7, 2013