Rome — The first Global Plan for Action for the Conservation, Sustainable Use and Development of Forest Genetic Resources was adopted last week by FAO's Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.
The Commission has asked FAO to develop an implementation strategy for the Plan of Action and to ensure mobilization of adequate financial resources for its implementation, particularly in support of developing countries.
Conserving forest genetic resources is vital for the future
Estimates of the number of tree species worldwide vary from 80 000 to 100 000. Forest ecosystems remain essential refuges for biodiversity, and 12 percent of the world's forests are designated primarily for the conservation of biological diversity.
The contribution of forests and trees to meeting the present and future challenges of food security, poverty alleviation and sustainable development depends on the availability of rich diversity between and within tree species.
Genetic diversity is needed to ensure that forest trees can survive, adapt and evolve under changing environmental conditions. It also maintains the vitality of forests and provides resilience to stresses such as pests and disease.
Furthermore, genetic diversity is needed for artificial selection, breeding and domestication programmes for the development of adapted varieties or to strengthen useful traits.
In many countries, the prospects for sustainable development in rural areas will be greatly influenced by the state of diversity in forest ecosystems and species.
Priority areas for action
The efforts to sustainably manage forest genetic resources at international and national levels need to rely on solid and coherent information.
The country reports on the State of Forest Genetic Resources as developed following FAO guidelines are the main source of comparable information. It is also the basis for the identification of priority areas for action.
The key priority areas for action include improving the availability of and access to information on forest genetic resources; development of the worldwide conservation strategy; sustainable use, development and management of forest genetic resources; establishing and reviewing relevant policies and legal frameworks to integrate major issues related to sustainable management of forest genetic resources, and strengthening institutional and human capacity.
The proposed Global Plan of Action is now set for final approval by the FAO Conference, which will take place in Rome in June 2013.