Species diversity in a forest ecosystem depends on the genetic diversity of key tree species. For example, as genetic diversity of the main tree species is lost, other species, like insects and fungi, that are specifically associated with certain trees may disappear too, leaving the whole forest ecosystem biologically impoverished.
Why forest and tree genetic diversity matters
Trees provide soil and water conservation, facilitate carbon sequestration, improve biodiversity and increase the number of pollinators and natural pest predators, like birds. At least 1/3 of world's crops depends upon pollination provided by insects and other animals. Forests also provide bridges to aid wildlife movement through agricultural lands.
Forest foods – wild fruits, nuts, vegetables, mushrooms and animal products – contribute to global food security. They help maintain household nutrition and provide a lifeline to rural populations especially between harvests or during extreme weather events like extended droughts when food can be scarce. Yet many of these trees are under threat.
Billions of people depend on trees for fuel, medicine, food, tools and containers, fodder for livestock, shade, and watershed maintenance. Selecting individual trees with the most desirable characteristics in breeding programmes, allows them to adapt to changing conditions and continue to produce the goods and services that people need.
Tree populations need genetic variation for survival, good growth and viability in the long term. It enhances resistance to acute and chronic stressors, such as pests and diseases, and the effects of global warming. It is also fundamental in forest restoration efforts to ensure that the trees planted today will become the healthy forests of tomorrow.
Women and men have distinct and complementary sets of knowledge, skills, practices and preferences related to forest management and conservation, and on rights to access and benefits from trees and their products. Effective forest genetic resource management can increase social equity and the long-term sustainability of forests.
Deforestation has many drivers but one is often overlooked: food consumption in cities that increases demand for products produced on deforested land....
Available in English and Spanish, the Forest Genetic Resources Training Guide is a tool for teaching and learning about forest genetic resources issues in formal education or on-the-job training. Through its modules, you will learn about the links between sustainable forest management and forest genetic resources, covering areas such as conservation strategies, trees outside forests, seed supply chains, and forest management, forest restoration and logging.