In situ conservation

Early programmes in the conservation of forest genetic resources clearly demonstrated the need to complement ex situ conservation efforts (on which the work of the international community was mainly focused, in line with prevailing national needs) with in situ strategies to ensure adequate conservation especially of long-lived, outbreeding forest trees.

During the period 1984-1989, Primary forest. Photo: FAOFAO in collaboration with UNEP published a guide to in situ conservation of forest genetic resources, and initiated pilot in situ conservation activities in Cameroon, Malaysia, Peru, Yemen and Zambia.

In March 1993, in preparation for the Fourth International Technical Conference on Plant Genetic Resources a questionnaire on the state of the world's forest genetic resources was distributed by FAO to all Member Nations. The survey showed that in more than 50 of the 90 countries which responded to the questionnaire, in situ conservation areas for the conservation of within-species variation had been established for a large number of forest species. The country responses to the questionnaire constitute basic information for the FAO Worldwide Information System on Forest Genetic Resources (REFORGEN).

FAO's Forestry Department is currently engaged in two main activities in the field of in situ conservation:

  1. Evaluation of in situ conservation stands established under the FAO coordinated in situ forest genetic resources programme.
  2. Development of a practical step by step guide to the in situ conservation of forest genetic resources.

Evaluation of in situ conservation stands established under the FAO coordinated in situ forest genetic resources programme

As a follow up to recommendations of the FAO Panel of Experts on Forest Gene Resources and other international bodies, FAO is coordinating the evaluation of practical experiences with in situ conservation stands, established/demarcated by a number of countries, under an earlier FAO/UNEP project. Danida Forest Seed Centre (Denmark), now part of Forest and Landscape Denmark, provides technical and financial assistance to this programme, which is carried out in partnership with national institutes in participating countries.

The development objective is to improve the conservation status of forest genetic resources of priority species at national and international level.

The immediate objective is, based on the outcome of the evaluation of the stands, to provide practical guidelines for the establishment and management of national in situ forest gene resource conservation areas in order to assist countries in the planning and execution of in situ conservation programmes of forest tree species.Brazil. Photo: Roberto Faidutti

What has been done so far: In October 1995, reviews were made of (i) in situ stands established/demarcated within the framework of an earlier FAO/UNEP Projects on forest gene resource conservation, and (ii) the information on in situ conservation activities held in the FAO global information system on forest genetic resources.

Based on the reviews and responses from circular letters sent to potential collaborating countries , field evaluation of existing in situ conservation stands were carried out in Burkina Faso (1998), Thailand (1997 and 1998) and Zambia (1997 and 2000). Based on data collected, case studies on in situ conservation of Acacia senegal in Burkina Faso, Tectona grandis and Pinus merkusii in Thailand and Baikea plurijuga in Zambia have been prepared. The case study on Tectona grandis was published by the DANIDA Forest Seed Centre (now part of Forest and Landscape Denmark) in 1999.

Publication of a step by step guide to the in situ conservation of forest genetic resources

Basic knowledge on biology, genetic variation and variation patterns of species to be conserved is, for most forest tree species, lacking or is insufficient. Intensive research will be needed in this field and, at present, this aspect is receiving increasing attention from a number of research centres, notably the CGIAR centres ( e.g. IPGRI (now Bioversity International), CIFOR, and ICRAF). Conservation action in the field, however, should not wait until final research results are available, but should be started immediately, while ensuring that programmes remain flexible enough to incorporate new research findings, as they become available.

To this end, the FAO Forestry Department, the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI), now Bioversity International, and the Danida Forest Seed Centre (now part of Forest & Landscape Denmark), in collaboration with other partners have prepared a guide on conservation of forest genetic resources. The purpose of the guide is to provide practitioners (especially those involved in managing forests) and decision makers with an easy-to-follow, step-wise approach to conservation of forest focuses exclusively with in situ conservation..

last updated:  Thursday, January 6, 2011