Utilization and transfer of forest genetic resources: A global review

Jarkko Koskela, Barbara Vinceti, William Dvorak, David Bush, Ian K. Dawson, Judy Loo, Erik Dahl Kjaer, Carlos Navarro, Cenon Padolina, Sándor Bordács, Ramni Jamnadass, Lars Graudal, Lolona Ramamonjisoa

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)
26 Downloads (Pure)


Over the last 200. years, genetic resources of forest trees have been increasingly transferred, within and outside of species' native distribution ranges, for forestry and for research and development (R&D). Transferred germplasm has been deployed to grow trees for numerous purposes, ranging from the production of wood and non-wood products to the provision of ecosystem services such as the restoration of forests for biodiversity conservation. The oldest form of R&D, provenance trials, revealed early on that seed origin has a major influence on the performance of planted trees. International provenance trials have been essential for selecting seed sources for reforestation and for improving tree germplasm through breeding. Many tree breeding programmes were initiated in the 1950s, but as one round of testing and selection typically takes decades, the most advanced of them are only in their third cycle. Recent advances in forest genomics have increased the understanding of the genetic basis of different traits, but it is unlikely that molecular marker-assisted approaches will quickly replace traditional tree breeding methods. Furthermore, provenance trials and progeny tests are still needed to complement new research approaches. Currently, seed of boreal and temperate trees for reforestation purposes are largely obtained from improved sources. The situation is similar for fast growing tropical and subtropical trees grown in plantations, but in the case of tropical hardwoods and many agroforestry trees, only limited tested or improved seed sources are available. Transfers of tree germplasm involve some risks of spreading pests and diseases, of introducing invasive tree species and of polluting the genetic make-up of already present tree populations. Many of these risks have been underestimated in the past, but they are now better understood and managed. Relatively few tree species used for forestry have become invasive, and the risk of spreading pests and diseases while transferring seed is considerably lower than when moving live plants. The implementation of the Nagoya Protocol on access to genetic resources and benefit sharing (ABS) may significantly change current transfer practices in the forestry sector by increasing transaction costs and the time needed to lawfully obtain forest genetic resources for R&D purposes. Many countries are likely to struggle to establish a well-functioning ABS regulatory system, slowing down the process of obtaining the necessary documentation for exchange. This is unfortunate, as climate change, outbreaks of pests and diseases, and continual pressure to support productivity, increase the need for transferring tree germplasm and accelerating R&D.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-34
Number of pages13
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Early online date4 Sept 2014
Publication statusPrint publication - 1 Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Access and benefit sharing
  • Introduced species
  • Nagoya Protocol
  • Plantations
  • Reproductive material


Dive into the research topics of 'Utilization and transfer of forest genetic resources: A global review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this