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Forest Sustainability Reporting in the United States
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Indicator 1.09: Status of onsite and offsite efforts focused on conservation of genetic diversity

An indicator for Criterion 1: Conservation of Biological Diversity

What is the indicator and why is it important?

This indicator describes the extent of onsite and offsite conservation efforts for native species at the genetic level. Onsite efforts are those conducted in the field, such as efforts to increase populations of endangered species. Offsite efforts are conducted in laboratories, greenhouses, arboreta, seed banks, seed orchards, and similar facilities. Sustainable forest management requires a commitment to conserve locally or regionally adapted populations of native species using a combination of onsite and offsite approaches.

What does the indicator show?

Onsite conservation of genetic diversity is provided by parks and other protected areas, genetic and ecological conservation areas, reserved forest areas, and through planned natural regeneration. Onsite conservation efforts for genetic diversity of plants and animals vary greatly in spatial extent and intensity of management. Many public forests include genetic conservation for common species as a primary management goal and are managed intensively for species that are rare, threatened, endangered, or of special concern. Some private forests also are managed to conserve genetic diversity. These onsite efforts to conserve genetic diversity largely overlap with efforts to conserve species diversity that are described for Indicator 1.06, and that material is not duplicated here.

Offsite genetic conservation efforts tend to be intensive and are often focused on breeding programs or archival programs. These measures are sometimes undertaken, for example, to ensure that seed used for replanting after harvest has sufficient genetic diversity. Offsite genetic conservation occurs at zoos, seed banks, seed orchards, clonal archives, arboretums, and similar facilities. These are summarized in table 9-1. Institutions differ in the proportion of total effort that is focused on forest species. Some institutions work on global and domestic forest genetic diversity conservation.

What has changed since 2003?

This indicator was not reported in 2003.

Are there important regional differences?

Many broadscale, onsite efforts to conserve genetic diversity are associated with public forest land and protected areas. Much public forest land is managed to conserve species diversity and genetic diversity as part of a multiobjective management strategy. Public forest land and protected forests in all ownerships are concentrated in the Western United States (see Indicators 1.02 and 1.06).

Offsite programs for conservation of genetic diversity are widely dispersed. Zoos, arboretums, and seed banks often work on global and national issues associated with genetic conservation. Facilities such as seed orchards, clonal archives, and provenance tests that grow plant material are constrained by the climate where they are located, but they also can participate in international efforts to conserve genetic material.

Why can’t the entire indicator be reported at this time?

Conservation of genetic diversity occurs in many places and many ways. Arboretums, herbaria, seed collections, seed orchards, zoos, and dedicated breeding programs are intensive approaches (primarily offsite) for conservation of genetic diversity. These are funded by Federal, State, and local governments and by NGOs. Ecologists, botanists, biologists, and foresters at universities across the United States are engaged in projects to conserve genetic diversity of forest plants and animals. State and local native plant societies organize private individuals devoted to both genetic and species conservation. No practical way exists to enumerate all such efforts or the proportion of their efforts that is concentrated on forest associated species.

Extensive (primarily onsite) efforts aimed at genetic conservation take place on public and private lands across the United States. Most management decisions affecting forest land managed by the Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Corps of Engineers consider effects on genetic and species diversity, with particular emphasis on species of regional, national, or global conservation concern (see Indicator 1.05). Some State, county, and private forests are managed with emphasis on conservation of species and genetic diversity. So are numerous private lands, including those protected by conservation easements or land trusts. It is not possible to enumerate all such efforts, or to discern the proportion of such efforts that is associated with conservation of genetic diversity of forest-associated species. The quantitative information presented in this indicator does not include many of these efforts and, thus, underestimates the total magnitude of work devoted to the conservation of genetic diversity.

Table-1: Summary of agencies, institutions & organizations that work on conservation of genetic diversity (compiled in 2009)
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Criterion 1 Indicators