Forest genetic resources

Timeline of FAO’s work on forest genetic resources


FAO commences its work on forest genetic resources and releases several technical publications (e.g. Handling Forest Tree Seed (1955) and Choice of Species (1958) published in FAO Forestry Development Papers, as well as Genetics of Forest Tree Improvement (1958) published in FAO Forestry and Forest Products Studies). As part of FAO’s forestry work, technical assistance is provided to countries to strengthen their capacity to manage and utilize genetic resources of trees. Throughout the 1950s, several articles on issues related to forest genetic resources are also published in Unasylva, FAO’s journal on forestry and forest industries.


FAO coordinates efforts to establish an international provenance trial of river red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) in 1964. Following the request of the 14th Session of the FAO Conference, the Panel of Experts on Forest Gene Resources is established in 1968. Its mandate is to “help plan and coordinate FAO’s efforts to explore, utilize and conserve the gene resources of forest trees and, in particular, help prepare detailed short- and long-term programmes of action, and to provide information to Member Governments”. The First Session of the Panel is held in the same year. In 1969, the DANIDA Forest Seed Centre is established as part of a project between Denmark and FAO.


FAO initiates a large international effort to test teak (Tectona grandis) provenances. Support is provided to collect teak seed from natural populations in South and Southeast Asia as well as from African and Latin American landraces, and provenance trials are established in 16 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Seed collections of several other species (e.g. Mediterranean and tropical pines) are also supported. The first issue of Forest Genetic Resources Bulletin is published in 1973 and the Third Session of the Panel, held in 1975, proposes a global programme on forest genetic resources. The second edition of Eucalypts for planting is published in 1979.


FAO continues supporting countries in collecting seed of various tree species (e.g. acacias in Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, eucalypts in Australia and a total of 43 arid and semi-arid zone tree species in Africa, Asia and Latin America) and the establishment of international provenance trials for these species. FAO and the DANIDA Forest Seed Centre organize a series of training courses on tree improvement, seed handling and reforestation. A guide to forest seed handling is published in 1985. In collaboration with its partners and several countries, FAO also carries out a number of studies on in situ conservation of forest genetic resources.


FAO facilitates international cooperation for collecting neem (Azadirachta indica) seed in Asia and for establishing provenance trials for the species in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In 1993, FAO publishes a Forestry Paper on the conservation of genetic resources in tropical forest management and initiates the development of a world-wide information system on forest genetic resources. National-level activities are supported in a number of countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and South Pacific. FAO also contributes to the establishment of regional and sub-regional networks on forest genetic resources in Africa, Caucasus and Central Asia, Europe and South Pacific.


A total of 78 Working Papers on forest genetic resources are prepared based on FAO-supported activities at national, regional and international levels.  FAO also contributes to the establishment of regional networks on forest genetic resources in Asia and Latin America. FAO, the DANIDA Forest Seed Centre and the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute publish three volumes of guidelines for the conservation and management of forest genetic resources. The Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (the Commission) establishes the Intergovernmental Technical Working Group on Forest Genetic Resources in 2009.


FAO prepares, in collaboration with its partners, the first-ever State of the World’s Forest Genetic Resources based on countries reports, a series of regional workshops and thematic studies. Based on the assessment, the FAO Conference adopts the Global Plan of Action for the Conservation, Sustainable Use and Development of Forest Genetic Resources at its 38th Session in 2013. In 2017, the Commission adopts targets, indicators and verifiers for forest genetic resources to be used for monitoring the implementation of the Global Plan of Action. The Commission endorses the voluntary guidelines for preparing a national strategy for forest genetic resources in 2019.