2.04.12 - Forest genetic monitoring

About Unit

The potential of forests to adapt to the changing environments depends on genetic diversity of the populations of forest trees. Several measures for adaptation of forest management to sustain, support and increase genetic diversity have been proposed, however their efficiency, as well as any changes in genetic diversity in time and space can only be detected through long-term forest genetic monitoring. Since genetic resources cross borders, and since shifts in distribution areas of forest trees are predicted due to climate change, monitoring of (conservation and sustainable use of) forest genetic diversity needs implementation at global, worldwide scales.

IUFRO can support the visibility, exchange of principles and protocols, and support further research of monitoring needs at a large scale; in turn, IUFRO can profit from an accelerated cooperation among forest scientists and practitioners working in development and implementation of forest genetic monitoring.

Objectives:

  • Set up or refine scientific value of the indicators and verifiers through regular evaluations
  • Establish cut off values for the indicators and verifiers that will signal for the change needed in forest management and conservation practices
  • Expand the geographic scope of countries where genetic monitoring takes place
  • Train researchers and foresters to implement genetic monitoring

State of Knowledge

Genetic monitoring is the main tool to follow the adaptation of trees to changing conditions in different parts of the distribution range, e.g. central, rear or leading edge, whether established through natural regeneration, assisted migration or planting in plantations. It provides invaluable information for sustainable forest management as well as conservation of genetic resources.

Several concepts of genetic monitoring in forests have been proposed since 1996. However, they were too complex and time consuming to follow in practice. Through 3 research and implementation projects tackling genetic monitoring: FORGER (FP7), LIFEGENMON (LIFE) and GenTree (H2020) the scientific basis and implementation protocols have been refined but still require scientific input, especially on the information value of the indicators and verifiers and their cut-off points that would alert the change in silvicultural and conservation practices.

Pilot implementation of genetic monitoring has started in Germany, Slovenia and Greece, and guidelines for 7 tree species, a manual and a decision support system for decision makers to decide on the needs and means at the national level, have been prepared. The unit will compile the progress of genetic monitoring in other regions of the World, the suitability of the indicators and verifiers through regular evaluations, the implementation of the system, and strive to expand the geographic scope of countries where genetic monitoring takes place.