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Forest science is alive and well: 10 take-home messages from IUFRO 2017

Published: 13/10/2017
The recently produced EUFORGEN film 'Afforesting Iceland' was screened in two sessions during the IUFRO 125th anniversary Congress in Freiburg.
The recently produced EUFORGEN film 'Afforesting Iceland' was screened in two sessions during the IUFRO 125th anniversary Congress in Freiburg.

From 17 to 22 September 2017, we took part in the IUFRO 125th Anniversary Congress in Freiburg, Germany  [1]. IUFRO stands for International Union of Forest Research Organization and is the oldest scientific union in the world. The congress presented the state of the art in forest research, development and practice.

Here are 10 things we took away from the congress: 

  1. Forest science is alive and well – with almost 2000 contributions – oral presentations and posters – presented (over 3000 submitted), shows that forestry research is vital and going as strong as ever. The same goes for forest genetic resources which were interwoven into the very fabrics of the event – from thematic threads  [2] to plenary keynote speeches  [3].

  2. Most forest issues today are global and this is why it makes a lot of sense to connect, cooperate, share knowledge and experiences on a global scale. The Earth is a single complex and rapidly changing system  [4]. Catastrophic weather events, invasive pests, increasing pressure on forests (from exploitation, overpopulation, recreation, tourism and wildlife) and are all examples of these issues.

  3. Climate change is happening at an alarming rate and we need to act quickly and wisely if we are to adapt. Based on what we learned at this congress, there will be paradigm shifts in silviculture and forest management: from maximizing productivity to maximizing the resilience of forest ecosystems. The forestry sector will have to play a major part if we are to mitigate climate change successfully  [5].

  4. Forest genetic research is crucial for future forest health, adaptation, conservation and sustainable forest management. Conservation of forest genetic diversity, including dynamic ex situ conservation and forest genetic monitoring were all major topics at the congress. EUFORGEN’s work in that area is very timely and the Pan-European strategy for conservation of forest genetic resources presented by Michele Bozzano  [6] can inspire other regions.

  5. Communication is more important than ever. The awareness about the need to communicate about forests and forest research is raising in the scientific community. We learned at the Congress that we must use science-based facts to fight fake news  [7]. Connecting people with forest science needs innovative approaches, such as the one adopted by EUFORGEN that links its website species pages to Wikipedia, as Ewa Hermanowicz highlighted  [8].

  6. Forest education and pedagogy along with urban forestry are becoming more and more important for the future of forests with rising urbanization of the global population. You can begin pedagogic activities with children using Handbook for Learning and Play in the Forest  [9].

  7. Because of the increasing number of threats to forests, successful forest monitoring of the future probably won’t be possible without citizen science and without a part of the non-expert population playing a major part. Citizen science projects for detecting alien species  [10] were presented at the IUFRO. Application of genetic monitoring in forest management is still to be examined and the upcoming stakeholders’ event of GenTree and LIFEGENMON  [11] will look closer at the issue.

  8. Forestry and wood processing industry will play a major part in the bioeconomy. Already many technical advances are being put to good use by the industry, but the bio-based nanomaterials offer a positive outlook for the future. Wood mobilization, especially from private forests, will play a key role in supplying the bioeconomy with sufficient resources. In Europe, bioeconomy is at the heart of European Forest Institute’s strategy  [12].

  9. The social, health and psychological roles of forests are increasing in importance as well, but there is a lot of potential for research in these fields as we need more concrete conclusions and data to present and manage for them in a better, more informed way. Also, forest tourism can mean billions of dollars in economic benefits  [13].

  10. Freiburg is a really nice city and Schwarzwald is beautiful. You should visit when you get the chance.

The text was inspired by Boris Rantasa’s blog post  [14]

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