Conservation of forest genetic resources
Safeguarding the genetic variety of forest trees is an important part of biodiversity conservation. Genetic diversity ensures the success of species in environments that are highly variable and subject to change.
The management of genetic diversity has been given high priority in Finland. A National Plant Genetic Resources Programme, covering plant genetic resources in agriculture, horticulture and forestry, was launched by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to promote the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources.
The implementation of the programme for agriculture and forestry is monitored by an advisory board, which acts as a link between various ministries, participates in the preparation of legislation concerning plant genetic resources and deals with Nordic and international issues related to plant genetic resources. The Natural Resources Institute Finland is the body responsible for the conservation of forest genetic resources.
The natural genetic resources of the main tree species in Finland – Scots pine, Norway spruce, silver birch and downy birch – are maintained in gene reserve forests. The genetic resources of rare species are protected in gene banks established specifically for the purpose. Nature conservation areas also contribute to the safeguarding of the genetic diversity of forest trees. A new method for the conservation of the genetic diversity of forest trees was launched in February 2015, as forest tree seeds were for the first time stored in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault on the Spitsbergen Island, protected by permafrost. The first samples of forest tree seeds stored in the vault are spruce and pine.
Genetic diversity is also taken into account in tree breeding and the production of forest reproduction material.