Institute of forest tree breeding: Improvement and gene conservation of iconic tree species in the 21st CenturyThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
Our nation’s forests and forest trees are undergoing unprecedented stress from invasive pathogens and pests, climate change, land fragmentation, and urbanization. Some of these stresses are acute, either regionally or locally, and are having significant negative impacts on regional and local economies and ecosystems. Managing and improving the genetic resources of impacted iconic4 forest tree species is key to ensuring their existence into the future. However, our national capacity in forest genetics and tree improvement has been declining for decades (Wheeler et al. 2015). Many of the current programs addressing genetic improvement of our hardwood and non-commercial softwood species are isolated, under-staffed and under-funded, resulting in limited success in achieving and deploying improved trees. In addition, they lack a committed source of long-term funding to make them sustainable across the time periods that are needed for genetic improvement in long-lived organisms such as forest trees. Experience has shown that most hardwood tree improvement programs have failed to outlive their initial phase and usually are suspended indefinitely or terminated upon retirement of the founding forest geneticist/tree breeder.