Conserving forest genetic resources is vital. Genetic variation is the basis of evolution and the catalyst for species to adapt to changes in the environment. The forest genetic resources contained in the populations and genes of thousands of tree species globally is unique and irreplaceable.
When genetic variation is lost through habitat destruction or intensive breeding, successive generations are less adept at responding to adverse conditions such as atmospheric pollution, climate change, pests and disease.
Forest genetic resources are invaluable to humankind: not only as a provider of products, services and in aiding economic development but also for their unexplored potential in areas such as medical research. In spite of the high number of species already in use, less than 500 species have been systematically studied for their present-day utility and potential.
FAO is actively working with its Members to assess the global state of genetic diversity in the world's forests and find solutions to the threats facing them. The Organization also promotes best practices in forest genetic resources management specifically in the areas of conservation, exploration, testing, breeding and informed use of new biotechnology.