Biological Diversity Ecosystem Condition and Productivity Soil and Water Role in Global Ecological Cycles Economic and Social Benefits Society's Responsibility
Ecosystem Diversity Species Diversity Genetic Diversity
Indicator 1.3.1 Genetic diversity of reforestation seed lots Indicator 1.3.2 Status of in situ and ex situ conservation efforts for native tree species in each ecozone

ELEMENT 1.3

Genetic Diversity

Genetic diversity, or the variation of genes within a species, provides the material needed for evolutionary change and is the ultimate source of biodiversity at all levels. It is important because as genetic diversity declines, so does ecological fitness and species become less able to adapt to new circumstances. The risk of a species becoming endangered or extinct could increase, which could in turn reduce forest ecosystem productivity and the ecological goods and services derived from the forest. There is also increasing interest in nontimber forest products that can be derived from Canada’s forests, such as the cancer-fighting drug Taxol® that can be extracted from various yew trees and shrubs, and genetic diversity must be preserved to prevent the loss of such potentially important products.

The conservation of genetic resources is therefore a key objective in sustainable forest management. Two indicators are used under Element 1.3 to track progress in managing and conserving Canada’s forest genetic resources.

Indicator 1.3.1 provides a simple description of the genetic diversity of parent trees used in seedlots, from which seedlings for reforestation are derived, and describes current efforts to monitor genetic diversity. This indicator suggests that the genetic diversity of seedlings used for reforestation is sufficiently robust to support the genetic adaptation required to respond to potential risks due to disturbance and changing environmental conditions. The indicator also highlights current Canadian efforts to monitor genetic diversity through the development of gene resource information management programs.

Indicator 1.3.2 describes the status of conservation efforts for native tree species. The indicator highlights how the effort to conserve forest genetic resources in Canada is achieved through the combined efforts of federal, provincial/territorial, and nongovernmental agencies using a combination of in situ and ex situ methods. While much has been accomplished across the country, challenges still remain. For instance, the Carolinian forest region of southern Ontario, the most biologically diverse in Canada, has become highly fragmented due to extensive land clearing for urbanization and agriculture. This has resulted in gene flow disruption and this forest now contains small communities of rare species at the northern limits of their ranges that may no longer consist of viable populations.