Protecting Genetic Resources
Why do we care about genetics?
Protecting plant genetic resources is an important mission of the Forest Service. Safeguards for maintaining local adaptation and genetic diversity in native conifer species, for example, have long been the foundation of reforestation practices and nursery operations. These same considerations are now being applied to the development and use of plant materials for other types of native species, including hardwood trees and shrubs, grasses, and forbs.
Plant materials that are not genetically suited to conditions of a planting site may cause the project to fail outright or not be sustainable over time. Poorly adapted plants may even negatively affect neighboring populations of the same species if they contribute pollen or seeds to them.
Ensuring genetic diversity is also important because it can strongly influence the long-term viability of plant populations, and their ability to adapt to changing climatic and environmental conditions. Plant materials that lack genetic diversity may be more susceptible to pathogens and other environmental stresses, and less competitive with exotic invasive species. Overall, the use of genetically inappropriate plant materials can have unanticipated and cascading negative effects throughout the ecosystem.
The following reports explore some of the important questions relating to the conservation and management of plant genetic resources. Special emphasis is given to genetic issues and risks associated with the development and use of native plant materials in restoration.
- What are the genetic risks associated with planting decisions? (PDF, 526 KB)
- Can genetic diversity be influenced by nursery practices? (PDF, 483 KB)
- Why is genetic diversity important? (PDF, 581 KB)
- Are patterns of genetic diversity important? (PDF, 469 KB)
- Why is genetic diversity always changing? (PDF, 712 KB)
- What is genetic erosion and how can it be managed? (PDF, 463 KB)
- How can genetic information be useful in natural resource management? (PDF, 565 KB)
- Is genetic management important in urban landscapes? (PDF, 515 KB)
Additional Resources and References
- Genetically Appropriate Choices for Plant Materials to Maintain Biological Diversity (PDF, 3.08 MB)
- Genetic Erosion: No Longer Just an Agricultural issue
- Grass cultivars: Their origins, development, and use on national forests and grasslands in the Pacific Northwest (PDF, 807 KB)
The National Forest Genetics Lab (NFGEL)
The National Forest Genetics Laboratory (NFGEL) provides genetic testing and information for integrated solutions to on-the-ground problems faced by natural resource managers and policy makers. Solutions are provided for public agencies, non-government organizations, and private industries across the United States, often spanning geographical and organizational boundaries.