Getting to the root of public perceptions for new technology and tools in tree breeding.

Changing colours in the fall in a mixed wood forest in Alberta.
Changing colors in the fall in a mixed wood forest in Alberta.

Better communication, sharing knowledge and acknowledging other viewpoints are needed to advance the use of genomic selection tools in Forestry.


Improving tree breeding programs to create resilience to changing climate conditions

The use of genomic selection in the forestry industry has the potential to address issues such as climate change, drought, pests, and sustainability. Genomic interventions use genetic information and visible traits known as phenotypes to select for specific desirable tree characteristics. By incorporating the use of genomics into tree breeding programs the forestry industry can identify naturally resilient trees that would shorten breeding cycles, improve wood quality, and develop trees better adapted to deal with climate change and pest outbreak threats.

Public support and awareness are essential for uptake of new tree breeding technologies 

The “RES-FOR (Resilient Forests): Climate, Pests & Policy – Genomic Applications” project team have successfully developed genomic selection models and recommendations for resilient tree selection that will enhance the climate adaptive capacity of Canadian forests through the adoption of this technology in the forestry industry. These technologies will also allow for a more competitive and sustainable forestry industry that could increase exports, ultimately benefiting the broader Canadian economy. However, public support and awareness of genomic selection technologies are instrumental in ensuring the uptake of new technologies within government and industry settings.

Access to information is important for decision-makers and the public

The work led by the RES-FOR GE3LS (Genomics and its Ethical, Environmental, Economic, Legal, and Social Aspects) team revealed there was lack of public dialogue when it comes to the serious threats to the sustainability of our forests. They acknowledge that uncertainty is an inherent part of applying genomic selection tools in various fields including the forestry industry. This is in part due to the complexity and levels of uncertainty in this space, as well as general knowledge or not knowing exactly how genomic selection could work to fight climate change.

When it comes to sharing the importance of genomic tools, the RES-FOR GE3LS researchers recommend communicating uncertainty using accessible language, acknowledging multiple viewpoints and values, and promoting transparent justification for decisions. They emphasize that scientists should acknowledge the uncertainties that still exist but communicate what they do know in accessible ways. Effective communication to the public can facilitate uptake of these new technologies, ultimately resulting in resilient forests that can stand against environmental threats.

To learn more about best practices when it comes to communicating genomic selection in the forestry industry and what genomic selection tools are available visit RES-FOR’s website

Additional Resources:


This work was funded through Genome Canada’s 2015 Large Scale Applied Research Project Competition for Natural Resources and the Environment. This opportunity aimed to support applied research projects focused on using genomic approaches to address challenges of importance to Canada’s natural resources and environment sectors, including interactions between natural resources and the environment.

Author: Vanessa Carias | Published date: September 17, 2021

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