Increased use of forest resources to meet increasing world demand for wood and other forest products threatens forest sustainability and highlights the importance of conservation and sustainable management of these resources. Maintaining well-adapted and productive forests, and conserving natural forest genetic resources are important for sustainable forest management. Over exploitation of species can lead to excessive forest fragmentation and reduction of population sizes to a point that threatens population viability and species existence. In many cases, restoration of genetic resources of threatened species is needed. Molecular genetic markers, combined with population genetic principles and concepts, can greatly facilitate programs in conservation, restoration and sustainable management of forest genetic resources. We have used various biochemical and molecular genetic markers, such as allozymes, microsatellite DNA, random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) and sequence-tagged site markers, to examine effects of alternative silvicultural harvesting and regeneration systems, and forest fragmentation and small population size on genetic diversity, fine-scale population genetic structure, mating system and other population genetic parameters in white spruce (Picea glauca), eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), and red spruce (Picea rubens). The objectives of our studies are to provide genetic benchmarks and indicators for developing guidelines for genetically sustainable forest management practices and scientifically sound strategies for conservation and restoration of forest genetic resources. The results of these studies are discussed, particularly in the context of sustainable management, conservation and restoration of forest genetic resources.

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