Forest tree hybrid zones provide a wealth of novel genetic variation that can be harnessed to safeguard populations in changing climates. In the past 30 years, natural and artificial forest hybrid zones have facilitated significant contributions to selective breeding programs, conservation, and our understanding of the evolutionary processes and mechanisms that influence the maintenance of species and community interactions. This review highlights advances in these areas using forest hybrid zones. Taking examples from well-known genera, including eucalypt, poplar, oak and spruce, this review details the important role hybrid zones play in managing conservation of genetic variation, the environmental and non-environmental factors that influence barriers to reproduction, and the impact that genetic ancestry may have on community biodiversity. Given increasing concern surrounding species adaptability under rapidly changing conditions, we describe how the study of forest hybrid zones, using quantitative and genomic approaches, can facilitate conservation of genetic diversity and long-term species management.
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