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Global Ambitions for New Forest Research Group

The largest forestry research group in Australia officially opens at USC this week, banding together 80 experts eager to protect and restore the world’s precious forest resources.

Director of the new USC Forest Research Institute Professor John Herbohn said the collaboration came at a time that the world was becoming increasingly aware of the vital importance of forests for life on Earth.

“It’s becoming more urgent by the day that we come together to find the best way to tackle bushfire management, rainforest degradation, take advantage of the carbon sequestration capacity of forests and sustainability of the timber industry, among other challenges,” Professor Herbohn said.

The institute consolidates USC’s existing Forest Industries Research Centre, the Tropical Forests and People Research Centre, and the National Centre for Timber Durability and Design Life.

“Forest research has grown exponentially at USC in the past five years, so the time is right to join forces,” Professor Herbohn said.

“USC already has a critical mass that uniquely positions us to work with experts, government departments, industry and community members to tackle the complex challenges we face globally,” Professor Herbohn said.

“Domestically we can see the issues with fire management, and globally we see the substantial degradation and deforestation, particularly across the tropics and the urgent concerns this raises about the amount of carbon this puts into the atmosphere,” Professor Herbohn said.

“In recent years, there has been a real push for reforestation, so the USC Tropical Forests and People Research Centre has been looking at better ways of doing that, how the trees can be protected after planting, as well as the role forests play in carbon sequestration.

“The Forest Industries Research Centre has notably been looking into biofuels and sustainable management of industrial plantations, while the Timber Durability and Design Life Group seeks to find better ways of using timber to reduce the need for replacement.”

Professor Herbohn said forests were vital for sustainable agriculture and food security and more than a quarter of the world’s population relied on forest resources for their livelihoods and energy.

“Forests are at the heart of a sustainable planet,” he said.

“Our challenges include ending poverty and hunger, responding to climate change, building resilient communities, achieving inclusive growth and sustainably managing the Earth’s natural resources.”

The institute brings together 80 experts who will also help train the next generation of leaders and inform international forest policies.

Among those joining the institute is Research Fellow Dr Nestor Gregorio, whose work on low-cost forestry techniques and reforestation recently featured in the Washington Post.

Also on the team is Professor Robin Chazdon, an expert in tropical forest restoration, who recently published in Nature journal about the high potential for restoration in the Amazon, especially in areas that have fairly recently been cleared or burnt and have not been used for agricultural production.

USC Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Roland De Marco said the institute had the immediate benefit of being based in Australia.

“Australia’s forest and wood products industries are recognised among the most innovative in the world, and USC is delivering the latest research to support it,” Professor De Marco said.

“We also have extensive networks and global partnerships with leading industry bodies, government agencies and forest and wood products companies.”

The launch event will include keynotes from internationally renowned speakers, presenting on various aspects of forests and forest research as well as research funding agencies and key Australian industry and government partners.

Institute researchers will also present their current work and there will be a poster competition and Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.


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