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Providing forest reproductive material for reforestation after major natural disturbances and upon possible legislative changes

Project status:  active
Project Leader: prof. dr. Hojka Kraigher
Department: Oddelek za gozdno fiziologijo in genetiko
Project group:
  • Slovenian Forestry Institute (leading partner)
  • University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty, Department for Forestry and Renewable Resources
  • Slovenia Forest Service

The projected rate of climate change is expected to affect the growth of forest tree species and may prevent the growth of forests on their existing areas. Simulations of forest development predict changes in tree species composition and altered distribution of forests as a result of frequent natural calamities, spread of diseases, pests and invasive species.

Conservation of the long term adaptability of populations is essential for maintenance of sustainable forests. At the same time it is necessary to provide opportunities for species, provenances and their symbionts to migrate. The latter may contribute to the natural mode of survival in the event of biotic or abiotic stress. Trees can adapt to new situations with phenotypic plasticity in the short run. However adaptation in the long run is only possible through evolutionary potential, i.e. by maintaining or increasing the genetic diversity of young forests. It is genetic diversity that enables survival, adaptation and development of forests in changing environment and ensures vitality of forests and their resistance to diseases and pests.

There is no guarantee that traditional forest management planning will suffice for maintenance of healthy forests. An increasing number of studies conducted through provenance transfers between different regions of provenance, high­altitude zones and different regions in Europe is conducted. When minority tree species are in question it is even more important to ' promote ' genetic diversity. Sometimes this requires active support in the form of mixed forest reproductive material from several seed objects. Lately, living archives and seed orchards are gaining interest as tools to maintain and increase genetic diversity.

In addition to changes in the relationship between natural regeneration and planting and sowing, adjustment of species and provenances used for regeneration and increased importance of seed orchards, special attention should be given to modification of traditional seedling production. In this context, special interest should be given to symbiotic organisms (i.e. mycorrhizal fungi) that allow forest trees to thrive in different soils, enabling uptake of water and nutrients, and their transfer between plants, and affecting resistance of forest trees to biotic factors. The present presence of these symbiotic organisms in forests will also not be able to follow rapid changes in the environment. Therefore, myccorrhized seedlings in containers are already used in alpine countries.

Despite of a few decades long lack of interest and ignorance of the importance of forest seed production and nurseries, this field is now rapidly gaining interest in the face of the ongoing climate change. Natural regeneration after the 2014 ice storm is expected to be problematic due to unfavorable environmental conditions and high numbers of game populations. In parts of affected forests, site appropriate and time optimized regeneration with planting and sowing of site­adapted forest reproductive material of high genetic diversity will be necessary. The latter will allow for their long­term sustainability through the preservation of the adaptation potential of future tree generations to changing environmental conditions.

Lack of interest and knowledge of the importance of forest seed production and nurseries has contributed to the current alarming lack of forest reproductive material (FRM) supplies and suppliers in Slovenia. Additionally, lack of interest and knowledge has lead to contraction of financing of forest seed production and nurseries for the purpose of regeneration of Slovenian forests. At the same time, a trend of major European nurseries and seed producers to centralize the system of tracing the origin of forest reproductive material in the European Union has strengthened. A special emphasis of the project will be devoted to preparation of expert guidelines and suggestions for possible solutions in case of increased demand for of FRM after major (natural) calamities.

Due to the relevance of the proposed topic the project will be divided into phases. In the first phase of the project we will prepare a proposal on the subject of ensuring of FRM for the purpose of 2014 ice storm restoration.

Project Objectives

The objectives of the proposed project are progressive and directly applicable in practice:
i . Preparation of technical and organizational platform for ensuring FRM for the purpose of restoration of major disasters, with an emphasis on the consequences of the 2014 ice storm;
ii . Analysis of key factors within the current regulations on the provision of FRM;
iii . Preparation of professional basis and criteria for the possible revision of existing provenance regions in Slovenia, which need to provide adequate quantity and
quality of FRM for a variety of site conditions in Slovenia, as well as any modification thereof due to the effects of climate change, including large­scale natural calamities;
iv . Proposition of technical solutions within a system of FRM provision for the needs of Slovenian forestry in terms of quality and FRM tracking from the owner of the basic material to the end user of FRM, including the anticipated changes in legislation. System for tracking the suitability of genetic diversity of FRM over time will be designed, including economic evaluation of the proposal, preparation of guidelines and a draft manual;
v. Preparation of a proposal for the acquisition of FRM, conservation and approval of new forest seed stands, including ex situ facilities, focusing on privately owned forests and demands of quality and relevance of FRM.

Project Team

The project team includes researchers from the Slovenian Forestry Institute and the Department of Forestry and Renewable Forest Resources at Biotechnical Faculty, in cooperation with colleagues from the Slovenian Forest Service, representatives of forest seed producers and nurseries, and forest owners. Some activities will also include other research or educational institutions from Slovenia. The project will also contribute to the development of the monitoring of genetic diversity, the implementation of the National Forest Programme, and to preparation of foundations for any changes or additions to the legislation on the conservation of forest genetic resources, marketing and use of FRM in Slovenia and in the EU. It will therefore be crucial to regularly interact with representatives from the forest sector within the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food.

Project Activities

Activities will take place in working groups (DS), which will include:
DS1: Sleet 2014 ­ a review of the needs, capacities and preparation of guidelines for reforestation after the sleet event 2014 (goal i).
DS2: Review and update of legislative provisions for ensuring FRM of adequate quality and quantity (ii., iii.)
DS3: Development of the concept of genetic monitoring system to ensure long­term stability of future stands capable of adaptation to rapid climate change (iv.)
DS4: Forest Seed Objects – basic material , including facilities ex situ , with respect to private ownership (v.)
DS5: dissemination and management

Working group 1

The list of project results and their milestones: DS1
I.1.1 Updates to the National list of forest seed objects (M6)
I.1.2 The protocol for production, processing, storage and germination of FRM of selected forest tree and shrub species needed for the reforestation after the sleet in 2014 (M12)
I.1.3 Recommendations for the production, processing, storage and use of FRM and raising containerised seedlings prepared (M36)
W1 Joint Workshop of several projects on reforestation and other sanitary measures after the sleet in 2014 (M12)

Working group 2

I.2.1 preparation of scientific and professional papers about the conformity of the design and implementation of reforestation by planting and sowing, use of FRM and the possibilities of increasing genetic diversity by using FRM from different Slovenian provenance regions and neighbouring areas (M12 , M24 , M36 )
I.2.2 preparation of foundations for changes or additions to the legal requirements , professional guidelines, as well as proposal of changes of the system of financing / organization of forest seed production and nurseries needed for provision of FRM for use in Slovenian forests ( M12 , M24 , M36 )

Working group 3

I.3.1 The pilot professional and economic evaluation of indicators of genetic diversity in the context of genetic monitoring ( M30 )
I.3.2 Preparation of a draft Manual for genetic monitoring ( M36 )

Working group 4

I.4.1 peer review and proposal of amendments regarding compensations for the private forest owners for approved forest seed objects on their property ( M36 )
I.4.2 Establishment of the Register of Plus trees of wild cherry ( M24 )
I.4.3 Preparation of an expert plan for establishment of the seed orchard of wild cherry with an increased genetic diversity and quality of wood ( M36 )

Working group 5

I.5.1 Finalization of the project home page and its maintenance system ( M6 )
I.5.2 Publication of scientific and professional articles ­ at least two per year ( M12, 24, 36 )
I.5.3 Participation at workshops in Slovenia ( M12 ) and abroad on the subject of reforestation after sleet 2014 and at scientific and professional meetings ­ at least two meetings per year ( M12 , 24, 36 )
I.5.4 Dissemination of the Protocol …. ( I.1.2 ) for the restoration of forests damaged in the sleet in 2014 ( M12 )
I.5.5 Dissemination of the draft Manual for forest genetic monitoring ( I.3.2 ) ( M32 ) I.5.6 Dissemination / discussion of professional background documents for modifications of legal requirements ( I.2.2 , I.3.2 , I.4.1 ) to professional public and the ministry ( M24 , M36 )
I.5.7 Preparation of the records of the progress of the project ( quarterly ) and the mandatory reports to funders ( within 3 months after the milestones M12 , 24, 36 )
W2 Workshop organized for the Slovenian forestry professionals for dissemination of results of the project ( M35 )
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