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Report: IUFRO forestry science serving society

Riccardo Morandini

Prof. Dr Riccardo Morandini is Director of the Istituto sperimentale per la silvicultura in Arezzo, Italy. He joined the International Union of Forestry Research Organizations (IUFRO) in 1953, has attended since then all IUFRO congresses and is a member of the present IUFRO Executive Board.

In September 1986 IUFRO (the International Union of Forestry Research Organizations) will hold its XVIII Congress in Ljubljana, Yugoslavia, on the theme "Forestry science serving society".

But what is IUFRO? Can IUFRO claim to represent "forestry science" and to have the authority to call forest scientists to a fundamental duty "to serve society"?

IUFRO is a free private association of institutions and individuals active in forest research. According to its statutes, IUFRO's main aim is to "promote international cooperation in scientific studies embracing the whole field of research related to forestry, including forestry operations and forest products". In particular, its functions are to:

· facilitate throughout the world exchanges of ideas among individual research workers;

· create and maintain contacts between member organizations and encourage the establishment of common programmes of research and cooperation in their execution;

· promote the dissemination and application of research results;

· cooperate with national and international organizations of a scientific, technical or cultural nature and more especially with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO);

· work, as far as is possible and expedient, for the introduction of uniformity of nomenclature and for standardization in matters such as information storage and retrieval; and,

· summon periodical meetings which may be combined with excursions.

The need for international cooperation was already recognized one hundred years ago when forestry research was still very young in most countries. Cooperation is precious in all fields of research, but is especially important in forestry because of its complex ecological, biological, technical and economic aspects and because of its long growing cycles.

The first official meeting of the Union was held in Vienna in 1893. Only three countries - Austria, Germany and Switzerland - had officially joined the Union at that time, but France and Italy were also represented. In 1906 nine countries, among them Russia and the United States of America, were represented at Stuttgart; in 1910, 18 countries, including Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom participated in the meeting in Brussels: the Union had by then a worldwide scope.

Site description, forest influence, thinning regimes and provenance trials were the main themes discussed during the first meetings. A broad exchange of ideas among researchers from different countries and from different environments was ensured, common methodologies were agreed upon and cooperative trials (Pinus silvestris, 1907) were established.

However, the First World War put an end to the encouraging development of the young Union. Political and economic problems hindered the activity of the Union after the war. Nevertheless, during the First World Forestry Congress (Rome, 1926) it was decided to reestablish the Union. In Stockholm (1929), where 33 countries were represented, a new structure and organization were adopted. English was adopted as an official language of the Union in addition to French and German. An important change was the admission to the Union, up to that time limited to research stations, of departments or research units of high schools or universities involved in forestry or wood technology research.

Cooperation, initially based purely on personal contacts, was gradually organized in systematic groups coordinated by the Union. Special attention was given to the problems of bibliography, and a classification system for forestry literature was developed and adopted.

The Second World War brought another halt to the activity of the Union. In the post-war period there was pressure to involve IUFRO in the new international organizations, but IUFRO had never been involved in political matters and wanted to keep its independence and its strictly scientific character: this idea was confirmed in the Congress of Zurich (1948). The next year an agreement was established with FAO: the independence of IUFRO was guaranteed, FAO ensured the Secretariat of the Union within its headquarters in Rome, and IUFRO was asked to participate in the main FAO forestry meetings and to give advice to FAO on special matters. The cooperation was very fruitful, thanks to the active involvement of prominent FAO foresters such as Haig, Metro and Fontaine. In 1957 FAO asked to be relieved of the Secretariat, and officially bestowed upon IUFRO a special consultative status. FAO itself had an official representative in the IUFRO executive body. According to new statutes adopted in 1971 and still valid (apart from a few minor amendments), the scientific activity of the Union is carried out in a number of research groups and working parties, grouped under divisions. Each division has a coordinator; each group or party has a leader, all working on a voluntary basis; research workers from member institutions are free to join one or more groups or parties and to participate in their activities.

The Union is governed by the International Council, which meets only at the IUFRO congresses. On an everyday basis, it is run by the president, the vice-president and the executive board, composed of the past president, the divisional coordinators, representatives from the different regions and by special advisers. The members of the executive board are selected in such a way that all fields of forestry research and all regions of the world are represented. FAO is also represented on the board. The Union has a permanent secretariat. Thanks to the cooperation of the Austrian Government, it has been based in Vienna since 1973 at the Forstliche Bundesversuchsanstalt.

Overall coordination of the scientific activity of the Union is carried out within six divisions:

1. Site (or environment) and silviculture
2. Forest plants and forest protection
3. Forest operations and techniques
4. Planning, economics, growth and yield management and policy
5. Forest products
6. General subjects

At each level, subject groups deal with problems falling primarily within the scope of a division; project groups deal with problems which extend to more than one research sector or division. Both subject groups and project groups may establish working parties, which cover particular aspects of the programme of work of the group.

For example, within the first division (Site and silviculture) a subject group S1.01 deals with ecosystems in general: within this group a working party S1.01-06 deals with tropical and subtropical forest ecosystems.

At present there are 40 subject groups, 23 project groups and about 250 working parties.

In its first decades, IUFRO focused attention on forest problems of the temperate zones, mainly concerning wood production and its industrial utilization. Activity was concentrated in central and north Europe and in northern America. Gradually the field of action expanded to other aspects of forestry and to other regions. Around 1960 there was growing interest in problems related to tropical forests and forestry: today quite a large number of groups and parties deal with research aspects of forestry in the tropics, both humid and arid. Recently, strong interest has developed in problems related to the environment and to the conservation of natural resources.

Exchange of information and coordination of research is carried out by correspondence or in meetings of varying importance, ranging from the level of working parties, sometimes with just a handful of specialists in a very narrow subject, to divisional or interdivisional meetings which call for a much wider participation. The recent interdivisional meeting on the impact of man on forest ecosystems (Strasbourg, 1984) is a good example.

IUFRO publishes an annual report in the three official languages (English, French and German) and a quarterly bulletin IUFRO News, in English and Spanish. Special newsletters or information circulars are diffused by several groups or parties to their own members.

The proceedings of the IUFRO congresses are also published: they already form a rich compendium of forest science.

IUFRO has regular contacts with a number of international organizations and agencies such as the World Bank, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the Forestry Institute of Science (FIS), and the International Council for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF) but especially with FAO on the basis of the specific agreement quoted above. Cooperation between FAO and IUFRO has been regularly strengthened. IUFRO provides FAO with advice on technical and scientific problems related to forestry, and especially to forest research. Several important congresses, consultations and meetings have been organized jointly, thus bringing together the large scientific heritage of IUFRO and the worldwide technical network of FAO: a good example of such activity is the Eighth World Forestry Congress (Jakarta, 1978), which provided a unique opportunity for the direct exchange of ideas and information among scientists, field foresters and decision-makers.

Special mention should be made about cooperation in the field of terminology. A joint FAO/IUFRO Committee supervised the preparation of a multilingual forestry terminology. The English version, with over 7000 definitions of terms in forestry and wood technology, was followed by French, Italian, Japanese and Spanish versions. Precise definitions of such a large number of terms largely facilitate the exchange of information among forest scientists and professionals of different languages.

An important recent development of IUFRO activity in the field of international cooperation in forest research is the special programme for developing countries.

At the suggestion of FAO and the World Bank, a seminar was held during the XVII Congress in Kyoto on the problems of strengthening forest research in developing countries, where research efforts are often understaffed, underfinanced, and where research officers are often isolated from the world scientific community. With the technical and financial support of FAO, UNDP, the World Bank and other donors, IUFRO appointed a special coordinator for developing countries with the specific task of promoting and organizing seminars, meetings and training courses in order to determine the main forest research needs of developing countries; to train research officers in the management, organization and execution of research; and to facilitate the flow of information and contacts with well-established forest research institutions. A first seminar held in Candy, Sri Lanka, in 1984 for Asian countries, led to the definition of research priorities and to the establishment of a cooperative research network on several species of common interest in the area. A second seminar, held in Nairobi early in 1986, dealt with problems related to agroforestry in the Sudano-Sahelian zone of Africa. A third seminar on multipurpose forest tree species is being planned for Latin America. Similar activities are taking place in the field of wood technology. The first results of this new activity seem quite encouraging and fully justify the engagement of IUFRO in this field.

In over 90 years of existence the IUFRO family has grown from three institutional members - the founders in 1893 - to 500 members from 100 countries with a total of 12600 professionals engaged in forestry research.

This large membership, the worldwide coverage, the past and present activity in all the fields of forestry, seem to justify the right of IUFRO, one of the oldest scientific associations, to represent forestry science on a world basis.

IUFRO invites all forest scientists to participate in its XVIII Congress in Ljubljana next September to join forces in order to serve society better.

IUFRO congresses






Vienna, Austria

Friedrich, Austria



Braunschweig, Germany

Dankelmann, Germany



Zurich, Switzerland

Bourgeoais, Switzerland



Vienna, Austria

Friedrich, Austria



Stuttgart, Germany

Bühler, Germany



Brussels, Belgium

Crahay, Belgium



Stockholm, Sweden

Hesselmann, Sweden



Nancy, France

Guinier, France



Budapest, Hungary

Roth, Hungary



Zurich, Switzerland

Lönnroth, Finland



Rome, Italy

Burger, Switzerland



Oxford, UK

Pavari, Italy



Vienna, Austria

Macdonald, UK



Munich, Germany. Fed. Rep.

Speer, Germany, Fed. Rep.



Gainesville, USA

Jemison, USA



Oslo, Norway

Samset, Norway



Kyoto, Japan

Liese, Germany. Fed. Rep.



Ljubljana, Yugoslavia

Mlinsec, Yugoslavia

MEASURING TEAK IN ECUADOR IUFRO promotes forestry science

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