Canadian Forest Service Publications

Proceedings of the Forum on the Conservation of Forest Genetic Resources: Challenges, Issues, and Solutions. 2007. Simpson, J.D., compiler. Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, Atlantic Forestry Centre, Fredericton, NB. Information Report M-X--M-X-220. 67 p. (includes: Abstracts, summary of business discusion in French).

Year: 2007

Available from: Atlantic Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 28029

Language: English / French

Series: Information Report (AFC - Fredericton)

CFS Availability: Order paper copy (free), PDF (download)


Forest genetic resources are important to the well-being of Canadians. They are essential for adaptation to changing environmental conditions. This means adapting to climate change, invasive alien species (e.g., newly introduced insect pests), and changes in air quality. Thus, ecosystem health and stability depend on forest genetic resources, and sustainable forest management depends on healthy gene pools of forest species.

Forest genetic resources have important economic values, both now and in the future. Genes are the source of variation used by tree improvement and breeding programs to improve the growth rate of commercial forest tree species, and to develop resistance to pests, drought, and temperature extremes. Genetic resources are vital for maintaining a viable forest industry. They represent potential economic value because of new products that will come from the forest in the future, including medicinal and other non-timber forest products. Development and sale of such products will bolster rural economies and will contribute to the health of Canadians.

There are significant threats to Canada's forest genetic resources. One such threat is climate change. Without a proactive response, populations near the southern limit of species' ranges will likely be lost, along with their valuable genetic resources. Another important threat is invasive alien species, such as the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis), the brown spruce longhorn beetle (Tetropium fuscum) and the fungus that causes butternut canker. We risk losing entire tree species, such as butternut (Juglans cinerea), if we do not act quickly and appropriately. For introduced pests and diseases that are established now, development of genetic resistance may be the only long-term mechanism for survival of tree species. Forestry practices have improved greatly over the past few decades, but inappropriate forestry practices can threaten genetic resources. Genetic diversity may be influenced in less obvious ways as well, for example, harvesting practices for a commercial species of interest may be harmful to other associated species. Urban and cottage development affects species associated with specific habitats, often including the richest soils along rivers or lakefronts. Finally, development of mineral or petroleum resources dramatically alters habitat and, without proactive conservation measures, populations may be lost in some areas.

These challenges require a coordinated response. Several provinces have gene conservation programs for some species within their own boundaries, but forest genetic resources transcend provincial boundaries and planning horizons. The Canadian Forest Service works with provinces to identify the issues, research the threats, and develop and promote appropriate conservation methods. Research and gene conservation activities are carried out by universities and environmental NGOs as well as by provincial and federal government departments, but such efforts could be more effective if they were coordinated across provincial boundaries.

The following papers constitute the proceedings of a Forum on the Conservation of Forest Genetic Resources that was held in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island on 28-29 July 2006. The forum showcased a number of presentations that highlighted various threats (invasive alien species and climate change) to genetic resources, summarized activities and issues involving genetic resource conservation in several provinces, announced the creation of CAFGRIS (Canadian Forest Genetic Resources Information System), and introduced the concept of a national program, CONFORGEN (CONservation of FORest GENetic Resources in Canada).

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