The 5th Forest Science Symposium

The 240 delegates who attended the 5th Forest Science Symposium

The recent 5th Forest Science Symposium co-hosted by the Institute for Commercial Forestry Research (ICFR) and the South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries (DAFF) provided the southern African forest research community with a unique opportunity to interact and share knowledge around the diverse research being carried out across this important sector of our economy.  Held at Hilton College outside Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal, the Symposium was attended by around 240 delegates from forestry companies, research organisations, academic institutions, government and private entities.

The theme for this year’s Symposium was “Risks to sustainable plantation forestry in southern Africa: The role of Research“. This theme was echoed in many of the presentations over the course of the two days with a number of reoccurring sub-themes developing. The first of these was around the complexity of ensuring sustainable forestry into the future. Opening plenary speaker, Ms Viv McMenamin, Mondi’s Director for Land and Forestry Division, gave an inspiring talk addressing many of the challenges facing the sector. Sustainable forestry is of course, about growing trees in a sustainable and responsible way, but it also needs to take into account safety and security aspects, economic and environmental issues as well as social challenges. Forestry in 2020 will need to be competitive, modernised, include community grower schemes, address risk around climate, pests/diseases and water use, and provide sustainable job creation. To achieve these will require a focus on partnerships – between universities, research organisations, government, the private sector and communities. This was second sub-theme of the Symposium; the need for strong collaboration and partnerships, and was highlighted in the plenary papers by both Dr Andrew Morris (Sappi) and ICFR Director, Professor Colin Dyer.

This year sees the ICFR turn 65. As the Industry’s research institute, a big part of its success over this time has been from the efforts of its staff, past and present, as well as through the partnerships and collaborative initiatives its has developed. In striving to support developing the competitive advantage of the South African Forestry sector, the ICFR is focussed on developing and transferring research-based knowledge to the forestry stakeholders, and on synthesising and transferring knowledge into products to support forest management. Into the future, the ICFR will focus on knowledge generation and knowledge deployment in adapting to a changing forestry landscape, strengthening partnerships within and between the public and private sectors, and between research entities, and on expanding a culture of collaboration.

In his plenary paper, Sappi’s Dr Andrew Morris highlighted the value of forest research to the Industry in the past and how this needs to continue. The future growth and success of industrial plantations is based on developing tree growing technology and on delivering value adding forest products. Responses to risks around climate change as well as pest and diseases need to be developed, together with new technologies such as remote sensing and the search for superior genotypes, as well as responses to a changing socio-economic landscape. Again this will require strong partnerships and collaborative efforts in order to succeed.

Over the course of the two days, various papers reinforced these aspects. These included the importance of understanding impacts on the environment, the need to adapt to climate changes, responses to the increases in pests and pathogens (a global trend as presented by FABI’s Professor Mike Wingfield) and the exciting development of a number of tree breeding and biomolecular technologies. The Symposium concluded with the presentation of awards for Best Paper to Dr Ilaria Germishuizen (ICFR), Best Young Scientist Paper to Mondi’s Tracy Newmarch, Best Poster and Best Young Scientist Poster to Phillip Fischer (Sappi) and runner up for Best Poster to Steven Dovey (ICFR).

Generous sponsorship from DAFF and from EcoGuard, Komatiland Forests, Merensky, Mondi, NCT Co-operative Forestry, SA Forestry, Sappi, TWK Agriculture and Wood SA and Timber Times ensured all of the delegates enjoyed a quality experience. Post-event evaluation and feedback received will be used in planning for 6th Forest Science Symposium in 2014.

Source: Forestry South Africa – Press release – 16 August 2012

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