Maaten T.  

Conservation and Management of Forest Genetic Resources in Estonia

The Republic of Estonia is located in Northern Europe on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea, 57˚30’ to 59˚49’ north and 21˚46’ to 28˚13’ east. The total area of the country is 45 227 square km. According to the inventory of the 2009 National Forest Inventory, Estonia has 2 205 000 hectares of Forest land, which represents approximately half of the country. Based on the geographical division of plants, Estonia primarly belongs to the northern area of the Northern Hemisphere. The tree most widespread tree species are Scots pine, Norway spruce and silver birch. As domonant tree species they account for 81% of forest land and 77% of the volume of growing stock.
In Estonia, as in other regions of the former Soviet Union, a great amount of work on the conservation of forest genetic resources was done in 1980’s once the “Regulations for the designation and conservation of genepools of tree species in the forests of the USSR” had been approved for all USSR in 1982 and the adopted guidelines for selection of gene reserves had been approved in Estonia in 1985. Ten gene reserves were established with the total area of 3540 ha. The main aim of conservation activities was maintenance of larger parts of populations of the economically important tree species in situ. After privatization in the mid 1990 area of gene reserves decreased 636 ha. There are no additional reserves selected during last 25 years.
Selection of plus trees, as the preliminary work for tree breeding, started in 1959 in Estonia. Since that time more than 500 Scots pine and more than 200 Norway spruce plus trees have been selected and 402 Scots pine and 203 Norway spruce clones are represented in seed orchards which are considered also as clonal archives in Estonia. There are also selected broadleaved (silver birch, black alder, pedunculate oak, common ash, European white elm and Norway maple) plus tress (328 altogether) but only birch and black alder plus trees are grafted and represented in seed orchards. All seed orchards in Estonia are first stage seed orchards. There are never established progeny trials for breeding purposes.
Further development of forestry sector and nature protection is strongly influenced by MCPFE resolutions in Estonia. The Forestry Development Programme for 2011 – 2020 is being compiled. The main objective of the development plan is to ensure the productivity and vitality of forests and diverse and efficient use thereof. For that purpose: 1) to maintain the productivity of forests, reforestation work is performed on at least one-half of the regeneration cutting areas; 2) to maintain the good status of populations of endangered species and species typical to Estonia, at least 10% of the forest land area has been placed under protection and the representativity of forests under strict protection has been improved. Conservation of forest genetic resources is also on important objective of Nature Protection Development Programme for 2011 – 2020. Considering the support by the development programs, compilation of long term forest tree breeding programme as well forest genetic conservation strategy started in this year in Estonia. Minimum requirements for selection of gene conservation units worked out by partners of EUFGIS project will be the cornerstones of  forest genetic resources conservation strategy.

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