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Department of Forest Physiology and Genetics

Long-term stability of forest ecosystems is based on conservation of the adaptability of forest trees to changing environmental conditions. A precondition for sustainable growth of forests and conservation of forest genetic sources is an understanding of the physiology, functional, genetic and species diversity of forest trees and their symbionts.

Our tasks, projects and programmes are based on research and development in the field of forest physiology and genetics, developmental and expert guidance concerning forest reproductive material, fulfilment of obligations deriving from public authorizations, providing advice and transfer of knowledge, and managing the Slovenian Genetic Bank, molecular and biochemical data bases and reference material as well as live collections of forest tree root symbionts.

Our goals are to achieve internationally recognized scientific excellence, transfer knowledge, and provide guidance for the developmental needs and capacities of Slovenian forests and forestry with respect to forest biology and conservation of forest genetic resources, as a precondition for long-term stability of forest ecosystems and their multifunctional role in the preservation of biodiversity and carbon sink modelling.
The activities support programme and project networking, development of employees' capacities and knowledge, equipment and facilities, attainment of scientific criteria, and expert advice-giving.

We are in charge of projects and civil forest service tasks on:

  • physiology of forest trees,
  • forest genetics, provenance research, and population genetics,
  • conservation of forest genetic resources (in situ, ex situ),
  • physiology of growth and development, root growth, physiology of symbioses, and stress physiology,
  • development of seed and nurseries technologies (seed processing, storage, germination and planting),
  • mycorrhiza and interactions in the rhizosphere,
  • forest soil biodiversity,
  • physiology and ecology of root growth and development,
  • myco- and rhizo-bioindication of stress in the rhizosphere,
  • molecular ecology,
  • biotechnology, biotechnical engineering and myco-rhizo-remediation technologies,
  • forest tree plantations, counselling on plant use in energy and biomass plantations .

As the authorized official body for the approval of forest seed objects, certification and diagnostics of forest reproductive material and the diagnostic laboratory for molecular identification of forest pathogens, the Department carries out various tests, keeps registers and issues documents for the needs of the forest inspection service and other commissioners. The results of our research and development contribute to the long-term stability of forest ecosystems and their multifunctional role through conservation of biodiversity and carbon dynamics modelling. Research fellows:

  • Dr Gregor Božič: population genetics of forest tree species, provenance tests, impacts of climate change and development of conservation of forest genetic resources strategy, decision-making as to the administrative procedure for the approval of forest seed facilities, keeping of registers, forest nurseries, plantations outside forests and live archives, international coniferous and poplar trees conservation strategies, expert support to the ministries responsible;
  • Dr Tine Grebenc: molecular biology, ecology and biotechnology, development and running of molecular databases for the needs of forest mycology, development of molecular biology methods for the needs of forestry and biodiversity monitoring in the woods with emphasis on the significance of mycorrhiza for carbon sequestration and processes taking place in the mycorrhizosphere, curator of the mycorrhizal part of the Mycoteca and Herbarium at SFI, European Council for Conservation of Fungi programme, expert support to the ministries responsible;
  • Dr Hojka Kraigher: head of department, physiology of forest trees, physiology of symbioses, stress physiology and mycobioindication, biodiversity in the mycorrhizosphere, structure and function of mycorrhiza and roots, interactions in rhizosphere research, physiology of growth and development, technological development in the sphere of forest seed growing and genetic banks in forestry, development of international strategies concerning conservation of forest genetic resources, decision-making and guidance for the administrative procedures from the sphere of forest reproductive material, organization and expert support to the ministries responsible;
  • Dr Marjana (Pučko) Westergren: molecular and quantitative genetics, development of molecular databases in forestry, forest seed growing and FRM certification, technological development in the sphere of seed growing and gene banks, forest genetic monitoring, development of information system for the needs of forest genetic resources conservation in Europe, curator of the Slovenian Forest Gene Bank, international minority tree species conservation strategies, expert support to the ministries responsible;

Young researchers and research assistants:

  • Marko Bajc, BSc Microbiology: research assistant, DGGE, sequencing, molecular phylogeny and bioinformatics
  • Peter Železnik, BSc Forestry Eng: young researcher – PhD student, studying root growth and development, roots studies in bioindication and monitoring, soil decomposition and respiration, application of minirhizotrones, image analyses and statistic processing;

Technicians and expert associates:

  • Melita Hrenko, BSc Biology: project associate, mycorrhizal characterization and identification, molecular research, molecular database development, fragmental analysis sequencing, responsible for collections at SFI and the microscopy room;
  • Barbara (Kadunc) Štupar, BSc Agronomy: head of laboratory, maintenance of molecular laboratory and equipment, molecular databases, implementing and development of molecular, biochemical and sterile techniques, preparation and storage of samples for physiological and genetic tests, maintenance and development of conditions for laboratory accreditation, computer processing of the analyzed data;
  • Ines Štraus, Biology student: temporary replacement of B. Štupar in 2010

Research associates (employed part-time at SFI):

  • Dr Gaby Deckmyn, UIA: modeling of carbon dynamics;

Visiting researchers:

  • Marina Katanić, ILFE: PhD student (AdFutura), studying mycorrhiza of poplars

Other project collaborators (not from SFI):

In Slovenia:

  • Prof Dr Franc Batič: stress physiology and bioindication;
  • Dr Robert Brus, BF Uni Lj: forest genetic resources morphometry and dendrology;
  • Kristjan Jarni, MSc, BF Uni Lj: forest genetic resources morphometry and dendrology;
  • Prof Dr Marko Kreft: confocal microscopy;
  • Dr Samar Al Sayegh Petkovšek, ERICo: mycobioindication;
  • Dr Nives Ogrinc, IJS: stable isotopes


  • Dr Saša Orlović with associates, ILFE: poplars, ashes, information system;
  • Dr Davorin Kajba with associates, For Fac Zagreb: conservation of forest genetic resources;
  • Dr Dalibor Ballian, For Fac Sarajevo: conservation of forest genetic resources and their symbionts;


  • Prof Dr Reinhard Agerer, LMU: ectomychorrizal types;
  • Dr Chris Andersson, EPA: the significance of mycorrhiza for carbon dynamics;
  • Prof Dr Reinhart Ceulemans, UIA: ecophysiology & modelling of carbon dynamics;
  • Dr Kris Haberer, Freiburg: mycorrhiza isotopical research;
  • Prof Dr David E. Hanke: hormonal regulation and signal transduction;
  • Dr Monika Konnert, ASP Teisendorf – forest genetic monitoring, certification of FRM;
  • Dr Jarkko Koskela & Michele Bozzano, Bioversity International: conservation of FGR;
  • Dr Tomasz Lesky & Prof Dr Maria Rudawska, Pl: mycorrhiza in contaminated substrates;
  • Prof Dr Reinhard Matyssek, TUM: stress physiology and ozone;
  • Prof Dr David J. Read, Sheffield: mycorrhizal ecology;
  • Dr Silvio Schueller, BWF: conservation of FGR
  • Ilse Stroschneider, OR, BWF: Directive 105/1999/EC
  • Dr Georg von Wuehlisch, Grosshansdorf – international beech provenance tests.