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Forest Genetic Resources (FGR) refer to the heritable materials that are of actual or potential economic, scientific or societal value. Genetic resources can appear as whole communities, populations or single individuals as well as seed-, pollen- or soma-banks and even cloned DNA fragments.
Forest genetic diversity represents the sum total of genetic variability occurring within and among tree species whereas forest genetic resource is the genetic material of actual or potential benefit to human. In other words, forest genetic resources form a subset of forest genetic diversity, which in turn appears as a subset of forest biodiversity.
Tree genetic studies described so far are limited to less than 1% of total available tree species leaving vast tree resources unexplored, which may harbour potential useful traits for mankind. This lack of knowledge on variation patterns and potentials along with changes in forest land use, deforestation, warming temperature exert a huge pressure on forest genetic resources. Hence, FGR should be conserved for a sustained harvest of benefits from forests and trees.
India ranks 10th among the most forested countries of the world.
1. Selection (of tress with desirable traits)
2. Breeding (of selected individuals for hybrid vigour) 3. Testing (of resulting progenies)
The steps and strategies followed in conserving FGR are based on the nature of the material, timeframe, end product and scope of the measure. In general, two basic approaches are employed to conserve FGR. They are in situ (on site) conservation and ex situ (off site) conservation.
In conservation, a priority species is one that is particularly threatened in terms of its long-term survival. In FGR, species that will survive if suitably managed are considered as priority species based on their basis of threats, potential or present values and the materials that are available for conservation.
APFORGEN (Asia Pacific Forest Genetic Resources Programme) and FAO had identified a total of 272 tree species spread across various forest types as priority species for our country to focus on tree improvement and conservation measures.
MoEFCC along with ICFRE (Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education) has organized a network in the country known as Forest Genetic Resource Management Network (FGRMN). A national level workshop was organized at Institute of Forest Genetics and Tree Breeding (IFGTB), Coimbatore, in 2011 to develop strategies for FGRMN and also prioritize important tree species for FGRMN programme. These activities were involved by various stakeholders like State Forest Departments (SFDs), ICFRE institutes, State Forest Research Institutes and Universities across the country.
The major responsibilities of the network is to plan, conduct, promote, co-ordinate in activities concerning exploration, collection, characterization, evaluation, documentation, conservation, sustainable utilization, exchange of germplasm and plant quarantine.
At initial phase, two nodal centres have been established under FGRMN for ensuring conservation, management and utilization of FGR in the country. IFGTB will act as the southern nodal centre covering the states of Tamilnadu, Kerala, Pondicherry, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha. Forest Research Institute (FRI), Dehradun, is the nodal centre for northern and north-eastern region and has its jurisdiction over rest of the above States and Union Territories.
At present, there is no specific legal framework controlling FGR. However, the legislations that govern biodiversity conservation, sustainable use and access and benefit sharing (Biological Diversity Act, 2002) and the protection of farmers’ right and plant varieties (Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Right Act, 2001) have implications on FGR. The collection of FGR from wild and their transport are regulated by Indian Forest Act – 1927, Wildlife (Protection) Act – 1972, and various State Forest Acts.