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EUFORGEN turns 20

Published: 3/10/2014
Watch this film to learn more about forest genetic resources and what EUFORGEN does to conserve them.

This month the European Forest Genetic Resources Programme (EUFORGEN) reaches the mature age of 20 years. EUFORGEN organized its very first network meeting in Izmit, Turkey on 3-5 October 1994.

To celebrate its anniversary, EUFORGEN has produced a short film in which two National Coordinators - Sven de Vries (Netherlands) and Jason Hubert (United Kingdom) – reflect on some achievements of EUFORGEN and explain why continued regional collaboration on forest genetic resources is needed.

In 1990, the first Ministerial Conference of the FOREST EUROPE process, held in Strasbourg, France called for an instrument of international cooperation to be established to promote and coordinate the conservation of forest genetic resources in Europe. After the Strasbourg Conference, a small team of experts from Finland, France, Poland and Portugal was assigned to recommend how to make this instrument operational. The team carried out its work during 1991–1993 with the help of several experts from other European countries and Bioversity International (then called International Plant Genetic Resources Institute), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the European Commission. The operational recommendations of the team and a proposal developed by Bioversity and FAO for the establishment of EUFORGEN were then endorsed by the second Ministerial Conference, held in Helsinki, Finland in 1993.

Maria Carolina Varela, Senior Scientist at Instituto Nacional de Investigação Agrária e Veterinária (INIAV), Portugal was a member of the preparatory team and she also served as the National Coordinator of Portugal for EUFORGEN until 2009. She recalls that “the early discussions on how to create the instrument for regional collaboration did not only focus on administrative issues, the principles of population genetics and how to bring them into practice were also debated from the very beginning of EUFORGEN”. She adds that “these discussions continued frequently beyond dinner time during EUFORGEN meetings in an informal but very productive atmosphere”.

Under this atmosphere, EUFORGEN has brought together experts, policymakers and managers to exchange information and experiences, analyse relevant policies and practices, and develop tools and methods for better management of forest genetic resources. The programme has produced a large number of outputs, such as technical guidelines for genetic conservation of forest trees, distribution maps, conservation strategies, databases and various publications and reports. These achievements would not have been possible without contributions of a large group of EUFORGEN partners – more than one hundred – who are committed to the regional collaboration and are passionate about the importance of genetic resources for sustainable forest management.

“The recent achievements of EUFORGEN, notably the EUFGIS Portal and the pan-European genetic conservation strategy for forest trees, have raised interest beyond Europe as they demonstrate how systematic and science-based approaches can be applied in a continental scale to document and guide dynamic conservation of forest genetic resources in different countries”, says Jarkko Koskela, EUFORGEN Coordinator at Bioversity International. Furthermore, the EUFORGEN distribution maps for forest trees have become a landmark product used by various stakeholders. “The compilation of these distribution maps would not have been possible without devoted inputs from our partners across Europe”, acknowledges Michele Bozzano, EUFORGEN Programme Specialist.