Authors: JOHN BRADLEY ST.CLAIR, GLENN THOMAS HOWE
Abstract: Conservation of genetic diversity is important for continued evolution of populations to new environments, as well as continued availability of traits of interest in genetic improvement programs. Rapidly changing climates present new threats to the conservation of forest genetic resources. We can no longer assume that in situ reserves will continue to preserve existing genetic diversity. Management of reserves should become more active. In some reserves, existing genetic diversity should be preserved by creating stands that are more resistant to threats using silvicultural treatments such as thinning and prescribed burning. In other reserves, natural selection and adaptation to changed environments should be promoted by increasing within population genetic diversity and promoting gene flow. This may be done by locating reserves in areas of high environmental heterogeneity, minimizing fragmentation, and using assisted colonization to increase genetic diversity by establishing populations adapted to future climates within or adjacent to reserves. Threats to native stands from climate change and other interacting threats should bring a renewed importance to ex situ collections, particularly for rare and disjunct populations and those at the warmer and drier edges of a species range. Assisted colonization to move threatened populations to new environments must be considered as an additional conservation measure.
Keywords: Climate change, genetic conservation, adaptation
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