What are key forestry species?

A key forestry species is a variety of native or introduced tree, either soft-wood or hard-wood that is used primarily for the production of timber. These species have developed naturally over generations and have genetically adapted to the local environmental conditions in which they grow.

Why is it important to conserve key forestry species?

The genetic diversity within a species acts as natural buffer against environmental changes and possible new pests and diseases, and it forms a base for future selection and breeding programs. With past declines in forest cover in Ireland, genetic material has been lost. It is essential to conserve remaining key forestry species and their genetic diversity as a future resource.

How are genetic resources conserved?

There are two forms of conservation:

in situ: Where the tree is continually grown in its natural environment

ex situ: Where seeds, plants, plant parts, tissues or cells are preserved in an artificial environment. The most common form of ex-situ conservation is through storage of material in gene-banks. The seeds are typically stored in laminated packets which are placed in containers and kept frozen at -18°C.

What is been done in Ireland?

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is responsible for the conservation of genetic resources in Ireland. A number of other organisations and institutions assist in this task: COFORD, Irish Seed savers Association, National Botanic Gardens.

Examples of key forestry species projects being carried out in Ireland:

  • Although not directly used for timber, Willow has played a very important role in Irish society in the past by providing the basic material for basket making for the construction of a multiple of useful items. Willow use today is moving more towards biomass production. A four year Teagasc post-graduate project on conservation and characterisation of Irish willows started in 2010

What is happening Europe?

The European Forest Genetic Resources Programme (EUFORGEN) is a collaborative initiative among European countries to promote conservation and sustainable use of forest genetic resources. Its overall goal is to promote conservation and sustainable use of forest genetic resources in Europe.