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Restoring forest landscapes is recognized as one of the strategies for tackling some of the major environmental problems of our time, notably climate change, loss of biodiversity and desertification.

The latest strategy of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (2011-2020) sets the bold goal of restoring at least 15% of the world’s degraded ecosystems by 2020.

Bioversity International is dedicated to creating awareness of the relevance and role of tree genetic resources in ecosystem restoration and disseminating knowledge to help practitioners and policymakers take the right decisions regarding the identity and quality of the most appropriate planting material.

Research highlights

Trees for Seeds initiative

Bioversity International’s ‘Trees for Seeds’ initiative provides the tools and capacity building for resilient restoration. Our activities include; the establishment of regional forest genetic resource networks, the identification of gaps in seed supply systems, strengthening seed production capacities and the provision of tools to assist with the conservation of priority species, as well as the selection of suitable species and planting materials to meet restoration objectives.

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Genetic diversity and native species in landscape restoration

The value of using native tree species in ecosystem restoration is receiving growing recognition among practitioners and policymakers. Native species are well-adapted to local environments and should support native biodiversity and ecosystem resilience to a greater extent than would exotic planting material.

 Bioversity International scientists coordinated the thematic study on 'Genetic considerations in ecosystem restoration using native tree species' as an input to The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN’s (FAO) report on The State of the World’s Forest Genetic Resources. The study reviews the scientific evidence on the role of genetic diversity in maximizing seedling survival and the regeneration potential of future tree generations on the site, as well as in ensuring that restored sites are able to adapt to future biotic and abiotic stresses.

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Expedition Colombian mahogany: saving a critically endangered high-value timber tree from extinction

Abarco or Colombian mahogany (Cariniana pyriformis, Lecythidaceae) is one of the most threatened lowland species of northern South America, and considered critically endangered in Colombia. The tree used to occur at high densities in the northern Colombian lowlands, with up to 40 reproductive trees per hectare, but this is not the case anymore: over 80% of the original populations have disappeared over the past century, due to its popularity in the construction industry because of its exceptional sturdiness. The combination of the tree’s ecological values, silvicultural potential and market value makes it an ideal candidate for restoration and reforestation activities.

Bioversity International is working with the Colombian company Forestpa and the national research institute Alexander Von Humboldt to safeguard the genetic base of the few remaining Colombian abarco populations. The objectives of the project are to characterize the remaining abarco populations at representative sites across the species’ natural distribution and establish a clonal garden of elite individuals from which vegetative planting material can be sourced for use in future restoration and reforestation activities. We expect this project to improve the conservation status of abarco and permit its large-scale sustainable use in Colombia and abroad.

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