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Access and rights to forest genetic resources in the Nordic region

Current situation and future perspectives

image of Access and rights to forest genetic resources in the Nordic region

Continued flexible exchange of forest genetic resources (FGR) in the Nordic region is important for sustainable forest management and for climate change adaptation and mitigation. For this reason, a high level political initiative identified a need to clarify the legal status of FGR in the Nordic region. In this report we summarise the results of a Nordic project intended to approach this issue, on the background that plant genetic resources is being increasingly subjected to private property rights. The aim of this work is to give recommendations for politicians and decision makers.

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What is special about forest trees?

Trees differ from crop plants in many respects. The rotation time of forest trees is very long in the Nordic region, 60 to 100 years for several commercial species. As a consequence of their size and great reproductive capacity, the gene flow is also extensive. European aspen (Populus tremula) is a good example: a single tree may produce up to 80 million seeds annually. Related to the pronounced gene flow, most forest tree species also exhibit high genetic diversity as compared to other organisms. Another special characteristic is that when forest trees are planted, the next generation may be naturally regenerated from the planted material – contrary to plant varieties in agriculture where new seed are mostly used every year. This might imply that it is valuable to keep a high diversity also in the planted forests as they may be naturally regenerated in the future.

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