Climate change and forest genetic resources - state of knowledge, risks, and opportunities
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Loo J, Fady B, Dawson I, Vincetil B, Baldinelli G. 2011. Climate change and forest genetic resources - state of knowledge, risks, and opportunities. Prepared for the Thirteenth Regular Session of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, 18-22 July 2011, FAO Headquarters, Rome. Background study paper no. 56. Rome: Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/41991
Internet URL: http://www.fao.org/docrep/meeting/023/mb696e.PDF
In regions where climate change is expected to be extensive and rapid, many tree species are predicted to experience severe stress in their native ranges. Survival will then depend on the capacity to undertake at least one of the following: (1) quickly adapt genetically to new conditions at existing sites; (2) survive changing conditions through a high degree of phenotypic plasticity without genetic change; and/or (3) migrate rapidly to newly evolving environments that match basic physiological requirements. This paper considers forest genetic resources in the different settings where people depend on products and services from trees for a wide variety of purposes, including naturally regenerating forests, commercial plantations, and trees on farms (including planted trees and wild remnants left standing for various functions). The expected impacts of climate change and hence strategies for responding to it differ among these environments. Assisted migration and artificial selection for appropriate traits are approaches that can be applied to planted trees, whether in commercial plantations or farms, but are less appropriate for natural forests. However, management actions are confronted with serious challenges, including national and international policies that limit the movement of genetic resources among countries, and long regeneration cycles that make tree breeding time-consuming and costly. Adapting to climate change poses a greater problem for naturally regenerating populations where the potential for natural migration is hindered by forest fragmentation and agricultural expansion, and when confounding factors for adaption include pests and diseases, reduced population sizes, and simplified forest structures and species compositions. Lack of information on the following hinders our ability to manage climate change impacts better: (1) little is known about the sequences and functions of the genes conferring adaptation; (2) the genetic and epigenetic basis of phenotypic plasticity and its role in producing responses to environmental alterations is unclear; (3) the basic life-history characteristics, ecological determinants and geographic distributions of many trees are not well studied; and (4) meaningful syntheses of such information into predictive models of change and response are poorly developed.