Safeguarding the genetic diversity of the world's forests: first global study of forest genetic resources is published

The FAO has urged countries to improve data gathering and research to promote the conservation and sustainable management of the world's forest genetic resources, which are coming under increasing pressure.

According to the first-ever edition of The State of the World's Forest Genetic Resources report, half of the forest species reported as regularly utilized by countries are threatened by the conversion of forests to pastures and farmland, overexploitation, and the impacts of climate change.

"Forests provide food, goods and services which are essential to the survival and well-being of all humanity. These benefits all rely on safeguarding the rich store of the world's forest genetic diversity - which is increasingly at risk," said FAO Assistant Director-General for Forestry Eduardo Rojas-Briales. "This report constitutes a major step in building the information and knowledge base required for action towards better conservation and sustainable management of the planet's precious forest genetic resources," he added.

Linda Collette, Secretary of the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA), said: "Data from 86 countries illustrate that insufficient awareness of the importance of forest genetic resources in improving forest production and enhancing ecosystems, often translate into national policies that are partial, ineffective, or non-existent."

The contribution of forests and trees to boosting food security, reducing poverty, and promoting sustainable development depends on the availability of a rich diversity of tree species.

Biodiversity in forest genetic resources is essential to improving both forest species' productivity and the nutritional value of the foods they produce - which includes leafy vegetables, honey, fruits, seeds, nuts, roots, tubers and mushrooms.

Genetic diversity allows breeders to increase their production in quality and quantity. A wide variability in desirable traits, such as fruit size, growing speed, oil composition and pulp proportion is a prerequisite for breeding and domesticating improved tree species.

At the same time, genetic diversity is needed to ensure that forests can adapt to changing environmental conditions, including those stemming from climate change, and also strengthens their resilience to stresses such as pests and disease.

The report covers 8,000 species of trees, shrubs, palms and bamboo that are among the most utilized by humans. However, overall the number of existing tree species in the world is estimated at between 80,000 and 100,000.

The State of the World's Forest Genetic Resources

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