In a context where forests must adapt to more extreme climatic phenomena, new pests, and emerging diseases, efforts are needed to make tree species more resilient in order to sustainably maintain forest biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Based on this scenario, the Horizon Europe OptFORESTS project brings together knowledge and innovation to foster cooperation in supporting the protection and sustainable use of forest genetics resources, which form the basis of forest biodiversity. These resources are needed to implement environmental and forest policies and meet global biodiversity commitments.
In the next 5 years, OptFORESTS will support the conservation and sustainable use of forest genetic resources through the following actions:
- Research on the selection of different forest reproductive materials (FRM), including selections adapted to future climates;
- Promotion of the sustainable use and resilience of natural forests;
- The expansion and diversification of nursery production;
- Developing nature-based solutions (NBS), tools and cultural pathways to promote forest biodiversity and ecosystem services;
- Solutions for the restoration of biodiversity.
Taking the long view
The intended legacy of OptFORESTS is the protection, use, and sustainable management of appropriate forest genetic resources of key forest trees, such as forest reproductive material, with a well-developed nursery sector to support planting and restoration efforts.
All of this will be achieved in a socially acceptable way and by considering underutilised tree species and unique tree lineages for ecosystem restoration and management. The ultimate goal of the project is to foster public awareness and fluid dialogue with forest stakeholders to bring about transformative changes in forestry, taking into account the genetic diversity of forests for greater resilience to environmental challenges.