Genetic diversity is the key component underpinning forest resilience to disturbances such as climate change, habitat loss and novel pests and diseases. The level of standing genetic variation in the northern conifer forests is shaped by the evolutionary history unique to the region and by human activities including breeding and silvicultral operations. To evaluate the diversity and the long-term sustainability of conifer forests in the region, this project will examine genetic diversity in Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) in three categories of materials: range-wide natural populations, the selected elite trees that make up the breeding populations, and seed orchard crops. We aim to answer three questions: 1) Is the level of standing genetic variation in Scandinavian populations lower than in other parts of the distribution? 2) How much of the diversity in natural populations is captured in the breeding population? 3) How does the diversity in seed orchard crops compare to that in natural stands?
This research should provide an overview on the severity of reduction in genetic variation in natural and planted forests, and form an effective framework for reaching a clear conservation agenda and for bridging the gap between science and forest operation.