Find out more about the LIFEGENMON project by clicking on the topics below.

State of the Art (Status Quo) and Innovative Aspects of the Project

Forest genetic resources face a large number of increasing threats. Climate change, air pollution, unsustainable forest management, invasive species, urbanization and forest fragmentation reduce forest biodiversity, may adversely affect genetic diversity and put at threat the future adaptive potential and sustainability of European forests and their ecosystems. Management and conservation of forest genetic resources is essential and needs to consider all processes which might affect their genetic variability, especially processes influencing the ability of a population to reproduce in heterogeneous environments. This is not an easy task and information on relevant changes of a species and/or populations’ adaptive and neutral genetic variation through time caused by management and conservation measures is needed. This information can only be obtained through genetic monitoring. In fact, genetic monitoring can be based on indicators and their verifiers in order to serve as an early warning system to aid the assessment of a species response to environmental change at a long-term temporal scale.

Forest genetic monitoring is an integral part of management of forest genetic resources and was first proposed by experts from FAO, Group on forest genetic resources, and later on simplified for practical use by experts from EUFORGEN working group on forest genetic monitoring, and by the German programme for conservation of forest genetic resources. With the exception of a pilot study of the German system in Bavaria, it has not been implemented in practice to date, despite the fact that genetic variability is the basic component of biodiversity and allows species/populations to adapt to changes in their environment. The development of fundamental principles for genetic monitoring in forests is an important step for the implementation of the Biodiversity Convention, especially Article 7, which calls for action to “monitor through sampling and other techniques the components of biological diversity”, demanding monitoring and control of relevant components of biological diversity, including genetic diversity.

With genetic monitoring, temporal changes in population genetic variation can be measured by appropriate parameters and thereby form a special part of biomonitoring, contributing to biological conservation. Genetic monitoring is compiling genetics and forest ecosystem monitoring, and is an upgrade of a study method through its implementation. It is able to assess the current status of genetic resources and to quantify relevant changes in order to preserve long-term adaptive potential of a species. The results of genetic monitoring can directly be used to decide about management strategies to prevent harmful effects at an early stage.

The success of a monitoring program lies mainly in its design. Genetic monitoring is largely a new concept and is according to our knowledge not fully operational in any of the European countries. The LIFE project LIFEGENMON gives a unique opportunity to devise a top-down approach (concentrating on the Germany – Greece transect) with common aims, objectives and (administrative) structure. The project is the first attempt to take up genetic monitoring methodologies in order implement them in an applied setting and derive detailed guidelines for the realization of genetic monitoring at a European level. The approach is meant to test the connection of practical application and financial feasibility and thereby develop a stepwise concept with different levels of observation intensity and related costs. However, other already existing monitoring schemes have to be considered and if seen appropriate, feasible and would provide an added value to genetic monitoring scheme, could be combined with the genetic monitoring scheme which will be developed within this project.

Stakeholders and Target Audiences

Added Value for the European Union

Since 1993 the EU has fully endorsed the United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity which has been the most important international political instrument dealing with biodiversity protection and reduction of biodiversity loss. This includes genetic diversity loss reflected in the focal area “Reducing the rate of loss of the components of biodiversity” under the headline indicator “Trends in genetic diversity”. LIFEGENMON will directly or indirectly support and contribute to the above and many other EU strategies, processes, common action plans and programmes, and implementation or professional support for development of legislative documents, such as:

  • Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS, COM 2001)
  • EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 (2011/2307(INI)), the Commission Communication of 19.1.2010 “Options for an EU vision and target for biodiversity beyond 2010”
  • EU Action Plan for Biodiversity (Commission Communication of 22.5.2006 “Halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010 and beyond – Sustainable ecosystem services for human well-being”)
  • Commission’s policy to take all the necessary measures to “guarantee the conservation of habitats in special areas of conservation, and to avoid their deterioration” (Habitats Directive, Council Directive 92/43/EEC)
  • EC Council Regulation No 1698/2005 (20.9.2005), on support for rural development by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development
  • FOREST EUROPE process, Oslo Ministerial Decision (2011), Warsaw Declaration (2007), Vienna Resolution V4 (2003), Lisbon Resolution L2 (1998), Helsinki Resolutions H1& H2 (1993), Strasbourg Resolution S2 (1990)
  • Green paper on forest protection and information in the EU: preparing forests for climate change (2010)
  • International programmes, associations, organizations, projects, such as EUFORGEN, FAO, IUFRO, Silva Mediterranean, the European Research Area and Horizon 2020 (through funding of research projects) and the EU implementation projects (such as projects within AGRI GEN RES (on genetic resources, funded by DG Agriculture) and LIFE+ (funded by the EU Environmental Fund).


What will happen to the monitoring sites and other infrastructure after the end of the project?

The monitoring sites established during the project are envisioned to become long term genetic monitoring sites and kept active long after the end of the project, serviced by local forest managers / forest service, which will receive ample training during the project, and further observations supervised or carried out by research stations.

The process of including forest genetic monitoring into the rules / regulations / strategies for forest monitoring will be started within the project at the national and the EU level. Further activities will focus on national and EU action plans which would include forest genetic monitoring as part of conservation efforts to halt biodiversity loss.

All project partners will continue to provide continuous advice and guidance on implementation of genetic monitoring for interested countries and forestry experts. All partners will actively distribute the information and the need for the European forest genetic monitoring system by presentations at meetings, workshops and training courses to address policy makers and other stakeholders.

Well documented protocols in the form of Guidelines, a Manual and a Decision support system will be made available to promote and advance genetic monitoring to other regions and for other tree species.

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