Sustainable forest management requires a proactive management of insects, diseases and environmental stresses that affect survival, reproduction, growth and productivity of forest trees and their associated ecosystems.

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry ensures that Alberta forests and the forest industry will be sustained for the current and future generations through:

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

Tree Improvement and Adaptation Programs

Climate Change Adaptation

Climate change is expected to bring new challenges for the Alberta forestry sector and other sectors connected 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
  • Forest Research Branch in British Columbia
  • University of Alberta
  • University of British Columbia
  • United States Forest Service and other institutions

In a changing climate, Alberta is expected to be warmer and drier than it is today. One of the ways to adapt Alberta's forests to a changing climate is to acquire and/or develop forest reproductive materials that allow artificially regenerated trees to survive, grow and reproduce adequately in a warmer and drier climate. These reproductive materials

  • may be naturally available in parts of the province that are traditionally dry, or
  • may be produced through tree breeding

Forest Health and Adaptation is part of Tree Improvement Alberta, which is currently implementing a 3-year climate change adaptation project funded by the Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation (CCEMC) to incorporate climate change adaptation into tree breeding programs.

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Gene Conservation and Species Recovery

Maintenance of 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 for evolutionary processes to act upon, allowing the species to adapt to:

  • Physical environmental changes, such as climate change
  • Biological threats, such as damaging insects and diseases

Forest Health and Adaptation identifies wild forest stands, collects and stores seed for future 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 in collaboration with other provincial programs identifies stands, collects and stores seed to capture the gene pool of the species before these stands are killed by the beetle.

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Maintaining Genetic Adaptation

Spanning 11' of latitude (49-60) and 3537 metres in elevation (210 to 3747metres above sea level) Alberta has a highly variable climate supporting a highly variable mosaic of vegetation and genetic variation within individual species.

Through provenance research and seed and clonal transfer guidelines, Forest Health and Adaptation ensures that provincial reforestation is done in a way that maintains the species' adaption to the environment.

Related Information

  • Forest Management Manuals and Guidelines
    See this web page for the following document: Seed Zones of Alberta
  • Genetics and Tree Improvement Research
    See this web page for the following documents:
    • Patterns of Optimal Growth for Lodgepole Pine Provenances in Alberta
    • Patterns of Optimal Growth for White Spruce Provenances in Alberta
    • Seed Transfer of Woody Shrubs in Alberta
  • Population Differentiation and Climatic Adaptation for Growth Potential of White Spruce (Picea glauca) in Alberta, Canada

Provenance and Progeny Trials

To support government programs for forest genetics, tree breeding and gene conservation, 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.

Provenance trials have provided essential data, which have been used to make preliminary revisions of guidelines on the use of reproductive materials across Alberta in a way that considers the potential impact of climate change.

Progeny trials are providing data that allow the Alberta forest sector to increase forest productivity per unit area of land.

Seed Biology, Technology and Reforestation Seed

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

In addition, Forest Health and Adaptation operates a provincial reforestation seed program whereby most of reforestation seed used on public land in Alberta is registered and stored in a seed bunker at the ATISC site.

Related Information

  • Forest Management Manuals and Guidelines
    See under the Alberta FGRMS Manuals section of this web page for the following documents:
  • Approved Seed Processing and Testing Facilities
  • Seed Testing Standards Manual

Seed Orchard and Clone Banking

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

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
  • Scots pine
  • 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 per area of land
  • improve wood mechanical properties
  • 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 Programs (CPP) Regions. Each CPP is governed by a species-specific tree breeding plan that describes the entire process of producing genetically improved seed for a specific part of the province.

Related Information

  • Controlled Parentage Program Plan for the Region G2 White Spruce
    ATISC has supplied seeds for this British Columbia-based climate change adaptation program.
  • CCEMC Adaptation Projects
    Visit the Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation (CCEMC) website to review current climate change adaptation projects, including the Tree Species Adaptation Risk Management Project.
  • Tree Adaptation Risk Management Project
    Visit the Tree Improvement Alberta website for details on this tree-breeding project.

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 for 2018/2019 . 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.