The Bercé Forest (Wikimedia Commons)

France initiated the first ministerial conference for the protection of forests in Europe (Strasbourg, 1990) during which European states pledged to implement a policy of conserving forest genetic resources, which was reaffirmed in 2004 during the interministerial conference in Vienna as part of the sustainable forest management policy.

Following the conference in Strasbourg, the French Ministry of Agriculture put in place a Commission on forest genetic resources, which works on the genetic diversity of the principal species of trees found in French forests, (sessile oak, beech, silver fir, Norway spruce, Scots pine, maritime pine, etc.) or on scattered, rare or endangered trees (Salzmann pine, black poplar, elm, etc.).

This is about characterizing the genetic diversity and the ability of different species to adapt to temperature and water-based stress, all while defining a policy of conserving the most remarkable types of ecosystems. A national database identifies the conservation units situated in France.

Conservation activities of forest genetic resources have been written into a national strategic forest action plan for biodiversity and are considered priority measures for the French government. An important program of inventory and characterization of the intra-specific diversity of forest species is carried out as well, which serves to clarify to the Ministry of Agriculture the priorities for conservation to define at the national level.

France also participates in financing a pan-European scientific network called EUFORGEN, which defines for approximately 30 countries a common methodology and a forest genetic resources conservation strategy at a pan-European scale (from Ireland to the Caucuses).

Here are some key facts about the biodiversity of the forests of France, as measured by the Ministry of Agriculture: 1,127 species have been observed and measured by the Ministry, including 123 species of tree that were represented by only one individual tree among the 75,000 identified, and 771 species by less than five individual trees. On the other hand, 174 species are represented by more than 100 individual trees, including 34 with more than 500 trees and 11 species with more than 1,000 individual trees.