Overview

Sustainable forest management requires proactive management. Insects, diseases and environmental stresses can all affect survival, reproduction, growth and productivity of trees and forest ecosystems.

The Alberta government, through its Forest Health and Adaptation program, ensures Alberta forests and the forest industry will be sustained for current and future generations through:

  • continuous monitoring and control of forest insects and diseases
  • regulation and development of forest reproductive materials
  • gene conservation

Climate change adaptation

Climate change brings new challenges for Alberta’s forestry sector and to land management related to the functioning of healthy and productive forests.

Since the late 1990s, Forest Health and Adaptation has been working with the following partners to address climate change through the Alberta Tree Improvement Program:

  • Alberta government departments
  • British Columbia forest ministry
  • University of Alberta
  • University of British Columbia
  • United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service and other institutions

Under a changing climate, Alberta is expected to become warmer and drier, especially during the growing season. One way to adapt Alberta's forests to a changing climate is to have a supply of forest reproductive materials that allow planted seedlings to survive, grow and reproduce in a warmer and drier climate. These materials:

  • may be naturally available in parts of the province that are already dry
  • may be produced through tree breeding and selecting for drought adaptation

Forest Health and Adaptation is a partner in Tree Improvement Alberta, which is currently implementing a multi-year climate change adaptation project funded by the Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation to incorporate climate change adaptation into tree breeding programs.

Resources

Gene conservation and species recovery

Maintaining genetic diversity is essential for the long term survival and reproduction of species in an ever-changing environment. Like all other organisms, trees need genetic diversity to allow populations and species to adapt to:

  • environmental changes, such as climate change
  • biological threats, such as insects and diseases

Forest Health and Adaptation identifies wild forest stands, and collects and stores seed for conservation, research, and restoration of endangered species such as limber and whitebark pines.

For tree species such as lodgepole pine that are threatened by the mountain pine beetle, Forest Health and Adaptation collaborates with other provincial programs to identify stands in order to collect and store seed to preserve the gene pool before these stands are killed by the beetle.

Resources

Maintaining genetic adaptation

Spanning 11° of latitude (49 to 60) and 3537 metres in elevation (210 to 3747 metres), Alberta has a highly variable climate supporting a diverse mosaic of vegetation and genetic variation.

Through provenance research and seed and clonal transfer guidelines, Forest Health and Adaptation ensures that provincial reforestation maintains populations adaption to the environment that they grow in.

Resources

Provenance and progeny trials

Forest Health and Adaptation has a network of field experiments known as:

  • provenance trials: test of genetic variation among populations from different climates
  • progeny trials: test of genetic variation among trees within the same population

Currently Forest Health and Adaptation has over 200 species, provenance and progeny trial sites scattered across the province. These sites are also conservation reserves of important genotypes and adaptive information.

Provenance trials have provided essential data used to make and update guidelines on the use and transfer of reproductive materials across Alberta, including consideration for the potential impacts of climate change.

Progeny trials provide important data that allow the Alberta forest sector to make reforestation decisions that increase forest productivity on managed forest lands.

Seed biology, technology and reforestation

The ultimate goal of tree breeding and improvement is production of improved seed for reforestation. Forest Health and Adaptation has a vibrant seed biology and technology program designed to generate scientific information on timing and the best methods for collection, handling, processing, testing and storage of forest tree seed.

Forest Health and Adaptation also operates the provincial reforestation seed program. The program administers registration of reforestation seed used on public land in Alberta and seed storage in a purpose-built seed bunker at the provincial tree improvement and seed centre.

Resources

Seed orchard and clone banking

Forest Health and Adaptation operates a network of conifer seed orchards as follows:

Table 1. Conifer seed orchards

Orchard location Orchard types
Crop Diversification Centre South in Brooks
  • Douglas-fir
  • lodgepole pine
North Star near Manning
  • lodgepole pine
  • white spruce
ATISC site in Smoky Lake
  • black spruce
  • tamarack
  • white spruce
Wandering River
  • jack pine

Tree breeding

Working with forest companies in Alberta, Forest Health and Adaptation performs tree breeding to:

  • increase timber and pulp production on managed forest land
  • improve wood mechanical properties
  • identify and increase tolerance to insects, disease and climatic and weather related damage

The Alberta tree breeding program is organized into breeding regions locally known as Controlled Parentage Program (CPP) Regions. Tree improvement in each breeding region is guided by a species-specific tree breeding plan that lists objectives and describes the planned program for producing improved seed for a specific part of the province.

Resources

  • AdapTree
    ATISC has supplied seeds for this British Columbia-based climate change adaptation program.
  • Emissions Reduction Alberta
    Visit the Emissions Reduction Alberta website to review current climate change adaptation projects, including the Tree Species Adaptation Risk Management Project.
  • Tree Adaptation Risk Management Project
    Visit the fRI Research website for details on this tree-breeding project.

Seed availability

Improved surplus seed

As outlined in the Mandatory Use of Improved Seed for Reforestation directive, the following attachment lists the declared improved surplus seedlots available for sale. Contact seed owners directly to purchase seed.

Stream 1 seed

For the Government of Alberta's stream 1 seed availability and sales please contact the Provincial Seed Officer.