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The status of genetic diversity in Swedish conifer forests: are there reasons for concern?

Research project Genetic diversity is the key component underpinning forest resilience to disturbances such as climate change, habitat loss and novel pests and diseases.

Head of project

Project overview

Project period:

Start date: 2019-01-01

Funding

Formas

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Ecology and Environmental Science

Research subject

Biological sciences

Project description

Genetic diversity is the key component underpinning forest resilience to disturbances such as climate change, habitat loss and novel pests and diseases. The level of standing genetic variation in the northern conifer forests is shaped by the evolutionary history unique to the region and by human activities including breeding and silvicultural operations. The increasing deployment of genetically improved seeds from seed orchards in reforestation has raised concerns and debates on the long-term sustainability of conifer forests in the region. To evaluate the situation, this project will examine genetic diversity in Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) and Norway spruce (Picea abies) in three categories of materials: range-wide natural populations, the selected elite trees that make up the breeding populations, and seed orchard crops. Wer will compare the genetic variation in Scandinavia populations with other populations across the whole distribution range to understand the evolutionary history of the conifers in Scandinavia, and how much of that diversity is captured in the breeding program for seedling production. This assessment will help to optimize current forest management for future challenges.