Council focuses on five strategic areas:
- Forest Genetic Resource Management
- Research advocacy
- Climate change impact and adaptation
- Productivity advocacy
- Communication & outreach
The AFGRC has made significant advances in all of these areas, some of which were identified earlier (see “Prioritization of Future AFGRC Activities” article in this section).
In the area of Forest Genetic Resource Management, Council continues its involvement in review of the Standards for Tree Improvement in Alberta, and in genetic resource management discussions with other provinces. Significant focus has been placed on the Gene Conservation Plan for the Native Trees of Alberta. Council also monitors progress and activity of the national conservation group CONFORGEN.
An extensive consultation process led to completion in late 2007 of a Research Priorities paper, which identifies three key directions for new studies around seed transfer, levels of genetic diversity in deployment populations, and selection of fast-growing, insect- and stress-resistant forest trees. This paper can be found in our “Reports and Brochures” section.
The Research Priorities take note of evolving conditions precipitated by climate change. Other Council activities in the climate change area have included a formal presentation to Alberta’s forest practitioners and regulators, and preparation of another presentation to key Alberta Sustainable Resource Development officials.
Productivity advocacy centres on a collaborative effort among forest genetics, growth-and-yield, silvilculture and forest health interests. The focus is on the integration of data and principles involving these four disciplines. One significant product being pursued is the incorporation of genetic gain into growth-and-yield models. In recognition of the importance of this work growth-and-yield specialist Willi Fast of The Forestry Corp. was appointed to Council in late 2007. Discussions also continue on moving ahead with recommendations developed at the 2006 Post Harvest Stand Development conference.
A communication and outreach program is now moving into its fifth year with funding provided by partners specifically for activities and products designed to improve awareness of Council activities and of the science of forest genetics generally. Council seeks to inform not only today’s regulators and practitioners, but also tomorrow’s leaders currently found in the province’s grade schools.
Prioritization of Future AFGRC Initiatives
Council has identified a number of initiatives that need to be addressed over the long term. Out of these, the following priorities have been selected to receive the focus of attention, over the next three years.
– funding to be secured
– sub-committee to continue defining detail as to the focus of the concept and
elements and present to a special meeting of council, on July 7, 2004.
– sub-committee to work out administrative detail concerning administration
of funds, contractor etc.
– Objective: To incorporate genetic information into growth and yield modeling
and Timber Supply Analysis.
– Step 1: Convene a workshop involving three groups of practitioners:
Growth &Yield Modellers
Timber Supply Analysts
– Step 2: Policy development
– Identify Gaps & Priorities
– Short term/Long term
– Spin-off Opportunities
Management & Processes Survey
In 2002, the Alberta Forest Genetic Resources Council began development of a survey of processes and practices in management of forest genetic resources. The goal was to conduct a survey on topics relevant to forest genetic resources management, focused on policy and planning. The intent of the survey was to prompt an exchange of ideas at the policy level and, if desired, at more technical levels. The topics covered by the survey were:
• Seed transfer policy
• Genetic resources conservation
• Genetic diversity
• Tree improvement
• Genetically modified organisms
• Non-native tree species
• Education in forest genetics and tree improvement
• Forest genetics advisory councils/boards
From an initial focus on provinces with forest genetics councils or boards, the survey was expanded to include all provinces and territories. It was formally endorsed by Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and New Brunswick.
Completed surveys were received from 11 jurisdictions. Most surveys included comments that helped to clarify responses about specific topics. After additional clarification through correspondence with respondents, an initial summary of responses was made and distributed to respondents with an option to review responses and make changes. Another option was to have results distributed with provincial identification or to be included anonymously in an aggregate tally. Six provinces agreed to identify their responses.
Responses revealed that some survey questions could be open to interpretation. For example, do policies and plans have to be written? Related to the formality of policy and planning is the wide range among jurisdictions in the need for formal approaches to gene resource management of forest trees. As a measure of complexity, jurisdictions were asked how many seed zones they manage. The range from one to 81 illustrates a range of complexity. In addition, recording the existence of a policy or plan makes no assessment of the adequacy of that policy or plan in gene resource management.
With the reservations noted above, the following general conclusions were made.
1. The survey reveals a general appreciation of issues in forest genetics and tree improvement although several of the respondents have job titles that emphasize silviculture or ecology. The actualization of that appreciation in organizational structures and formal plans varies widely among jurisdictions.
2. Jurisdictions in which the implementation of tree improvement is shared in public/private cooperative formats have the most codified activities. Where implementation of tree improvement is an exclusively governmental function, written standards are less common and, perhaps, viewed as unnecessary or undesirable.
3. Even where written policies and standards are in place, the resources and commitment to implement and monitor rarely seem available.
At the very least, the survey results offer guidance on important elements of a sound forest genetic resources management program and a preliminary “directory” of jurisdictions where specific issues have been addressed.
This survey and report were presented to the Canadian Tree Improvement Council in 2004.