The long-term conservation of genetic diversity can be accomplished through a variety of approaches: 1) Populations can be maintained in situ – in parks, ecological reserves, and other protected areas; 2) Samples of seeds, individuals, or tissues can be collected and maintained ex situ, for example, in seed banks or clonal archives; and 3) The genetic materials being tested in provenance or progeny tests as part of breeding programs represent an additional genetic resource referred to as inter situ conservation. A robust gene conservation strategy combines different approaches and sets benchmarks for these approaches based on population genetic theory, species biology, availability of appropriate protected areas and knowledge of their populations, and whether a species is the subject of a breeding program.

We are fortunate in British Columbia to have an extensive network of protected areas accounting for approximately 12% of the land area of the province. These protected areas were selected at least in part to include all ecological units in the province, and form the backbone of our gene conservation strategy. Genetic resources in breeding programs for 10 conifers, as well as seed in long-term storage at the Ministry of Forests’ Surrey Seed Centre, provide additional protection against loss of diversity. To evaluate whether these resources collectively are adequate to maintain genetic diversity for species evolution and adaptation, as well as tree breeding programs, and to guide additional conservation activities where needed, we initatiated projects to establish an overall strategy for gene conservation, to evaluate current levels of in situ conservation, and to guide additional ex situ collections, where needed.

  1. Sampling strategies and geographic scale for capture of diversity and conservation of rare alleles
  2. Adaptation and gene flow in central and peripheral populations
  3. The evolution and adaptation of Sitka spruce