European Information System on Forest Genetic Resources

Genetic conservation units

In terms of practical implementation and legal frameworks, European countries have organized the conservation of forest genetic resources in various ways. However, nearly all countries use the same conservation approach; networks of forest stands or areas harbouring tree populations which have adapted to specific environmental conditions or have distinct characteristics.  Such stands, i.e. genetic conservation units, are typically located in forests managed for multiple uses, protected areas or seed stands.

As part of the EUFGIS project, European countries agreed minimum requirements for the dynamic genetic conservation units of forest trees.  The reason was a need to improve documentation efforts and management of these units. The minimum requirements are based on the concept of dynamic gene conservation which emphasizes the maintenance of evolutionary processes within tree populations to safeguard their potential for continuous adaptation. This means either managing tree populations at their natural sites within the environment to which they are adapted (in situ), or artificial, but dynamically evolving populations, elsewhere (ex situ). In the face of climate change, this approach is crucial for the long-term sustainability of forests and forestry in Europe.

The units entered into the EUFGIS database have a designated status as gene conservation areas of forest trees at national level. The minimum requirements also specify a minimum size of a unit depending on tree species and conservation objectives. One or more tree species have been recognized as target tree species for each unit.

The management of the units aims to maintain and enhance the long-term evolutionary potential of tree populations. This means that management measures and silvicultural techniques are applied, as needed, to favour genetic processes within target tree populations. The monitoring of the units is carried out by visiting them regularly to observe that they still serve their purpose and that they have not been damaged or destroyed.

You can read the minimum requirements in detail [here].