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Aspen ForestIt is not expected that the land base of today's productive forest will increase. There are, however, ways to increase the amount of timber produced by Alberta's forests. One of the areas in which research is vigorously pursued is the development of genetically improved trees for more rapid reforestation. The science of forest genetics is the study of heredity variations in trees. Alberta began a genetics and tree improvement program in 1976. Today there are 12 seed orchards and a large number of well-established research trials. Four more seed orchards are planned for the future.

Genetically improved trees will be used in future reforestation programs. Comprehensive genetic tree improvement and improved seed production programs are currently in place for the major conifer species. In time, tree geneticists expect to develop trees that are thicker, taller and straighter than today's trees. They will accomplish this through selection, cross-breeding and propagation techniques. Improved reforestation stock is planted to establish new forests that will produce more wood of better quality, and in less time. Initial expectations are that improved seed will bring timber yield increases of five percent for white spruce, and 10 percent for lodgepole pine. Over the next few decades, advanced tree varieties will be developed with increased pest resistance, climatic hardiness, and timber yield increases that may be in the range of 20 to 40 percent.

Department of the Environment. State of the Environment Report, Terrestrial Ecosystems. Edmonton: n.p., 2001. With permission from Alberta Environment.



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