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State of Europe’s Forests 2011

Published: 9/06/2011

The State of Europe’s Forests 2011 report was released today at the sixth Ministerial Conference of the FOREST EUROPE process in Oslo, Norway.

The report provides a comprehensive, up-to-date description of the status and trends of forests and forest management in Europe. It is structured according to the Pan-European Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management. One of the indicators focuses on genetic resources, i.e. area managed for conservation and utilisation of forest tree genetic resources (in situ and ex situ gene conservation) and area managed for seed production.

EUFORGEN National Coordinators and other national correspondents in European countries provided the data on forest genetic resources for the report. The data collection for this indicator was coordinated by the EUFORGEN Secretariat at Bioversity International.

The report shows that, in 2010, a total of 476 000 ha and 7 700 ha of forests were managed for in situ and ex situ genetic conservation, respectively, and 870 000 ha for seed production. These efforts included a total of 142 tree species, including subspecies and hybrids.

There is considerable variation in these areas between different tree species in Europe. Large part of in situ areas and seed production efforts have been targeted to widely occurring, stand-forming tree species which are important for forestry. A group of five economically important tree species, i.e. silver fir (Abies alba), beech (Fagus sylvatica), Norway spruce (Picea abies), Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) and sessile oak (Quercus petraea), alone accounts 74% and 66% of the total areas managed for in situ conservation and seed production, respectively.

There are also several economically important tree species (e.g. chestnut (Castanea sativa), walnut (Junglans regia) and cork oak (Quercus suber)) for which only small areas are managed for in situ and/or ex situ conservation. Furthermore, very few genetic conservation areas are managed for scattered tree species (e.g. black poplar (Populus nigra), service tree (Sorbus domestica) and white elm (Ulmus laevis)) which are often considered, incorrectly, of having low importance. In addition to specific uses, many scattered tree species have a high value in terms of maintaining forest biodiversity and/or providing ecosystem services.

The report concludes that there are significant gaps in the genetic conservation efforts even in the case of the common forestry species. The geographical representativeness of the genetic conservation areas is considerably lower for most other tree species in Europe. These gaps mean that large amount of valuable genetic resources are not actively managed for long-term genetic conservation. Therefore, there is a clear need to develop species-specific genetic conservation strategies at pan-European level.

The full report can be downloaded from the FOREST EUROPE website.