Increased use of forest resources and a shrinking forestland base threaten the sustainability of forest genetic resources and highlight the importance of conservation and sustainable management of these resources. As forest trees are normally the keystone species of forest ecosystems, their continued existence is essential for many floral and faunal associations of these ecosystems. Major concepts, challenges and opportunities for conservation of forest genetic resources are briefly discussed in this paper. The major challenges include population decline and population structure changes due to forest removal and conversion of forest land to other uses,forest fragmentation, forestry practices, climate change, disease conditions,introduced pests, atmospheric pollution, and introgressive hybridization. Developing scientifically sound conservation strategies, maintaining minimum viable population sizes, and deployment of genetically engineered organisms represent other important challenges in conservation. The usefulness of various biochemical and molecular genetic markers, adaptive traits, and genetic diversity measures for developing conservation strategies for in situ and ex situ genetic resource conservation are also discussed. Major opportunities for conservation of forest genetic resources include: use of molecular genetic markers and adaptive traits for developing conservation strategies; in situ conservation through natural reserves,protected areas, and sustainable forest management practices; ex situ conservation through germplasm banks, common garden archives, seed banks, DNA banks, and tissue culture and cryopreservation; incorporation of disease, pest, and stress tolerance traits through genetic transformation;plantation forestry; and ecological restoration of rare or declining tree species and populations. Forest genetic resource conservation and resource use should be considered complementary rather than contradictory to each other.

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