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Which forest tree species should be chosen when the climate changes? This was one of many important topics discussed when the annual forest conference recently was arranged in Denmark. In addition to interesting lectures, the conference program also included forest excursions in the surrounding area.

Earlier this week, NordGen, Danske Planteskoler and the Danish Nature Agency, arranged the forest conference “Forests of the Future” in the Danish town Ringsted. About a hundred persons participated in the first day of the conference to listen to the ten speakers. The conference was opened by NordGen's Executive Director, Lise Lykke Steffensen:

“Forests are of outmost importance for all of us on this planet. When we are working with forestry, we make long-term strategies and planning. The climate changes make it very important what forest reproductive material to use when we plant new forest trees. One of NordGen’s tasks is to bring Nordic forest actors together to increase and share knowledge. We have to do our best for our forests of the future,” said Lise Lykke Steffensen.

Plans for the future

The conference's first presentation revolved around tree species selection in times of climate change. Based on ongoing research, Erik Dahl Kjær, professor at the University of Copenhagen, talked about considerations and challenges that may be relevant in today’s forestry.

“We are in the situation of global change with climate change and globalization. For the future we need stable forests and more forests. But to obtain resistant and resilient forests you need to have a plan”, Erik Dahl Kjær said.

In his lecture, he presented three options: Plan A is to have robust forests based on native, locally adapted gene pools and with high adaptive potential and high diversity. Plan B is to increase the use of non-native southern origins, or to enrich local gene pools with non-native southern origins. Plan C is to increase the use of non-native species.

“At this stage it seems difficult to rule out any of the options and we might need to combine them. But we need to run because things are moving very fast. If we need plan C in 30 or 40 years, we need to start now, Erik Dahl Kjær said.

Potential for new species

Another lecturer who approached tree species selection was Anders Ræbild, associate professor at the University of Copenhagen. In his presentation, he talked about the introduction of new forest tree species and experiences from the arboretums in Hørsholm (Denmark) and in Narsarsuaq (Greenland).

“We learned that many species, eradicated through the last ice age, can again grow in the northwestern Europe and Greenland. And there is a considerable potential for the use of new species. Should we try new species? Yes, I think we have to,” said Anders Ræbild.

In 2022, Anders Ræbild and his colleague Henrik Meilby received a scholarship from NordGen and Nordic Forest Research (SNS). Another holder of that scholarship who also spoke at the conference was Jing Xu, Assistant Professor at University of Copenhagen. In her presentation she talked about “Breeding without breeding”, a concept that involves tree breeding using DNA technology.

“This is a great method for minor tree species breeding, saving both time and resources and it can be efficient for doing ad-hoc breeding on new tree materials. With DNA technique it can also be possible to do selection on an early stage and reduce the breeding cycle,” said Jing Xu.

During the second day of the conference, the participants were offered to take part in forest excursions at Bregentved Estates to see, among other things, stands of oak and sycamore (Acer pseudoplantanus) as well as at the beech forests around Sorø Academy.  

FACTS: NordGen's forest conferences

The forest conference is arranged annually by NordGen in close cooperation in close cooperation with the national representatives who are members of NordGen Forest Regeneration Council. The Nordic countries take turns hosting the conference, next year it will take place in Finland.