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Heinrich Schmutzenhofer

IUFRO Secretary

The International Union of Forestry Research Organizations (IUFRO), with headquarters since 1973 at the Federal Forestry Research Centre of Austria in Vienna, Schoenbrunn, is a non-profit, non-governmental international organization registered in Austria.


The idea to establish a central organ for applied forestry research was brought forward in 1890 during a Congress on Agriculture and Forestry held in Vienna, Austria. The basic intention was to create an efficient organization operating in accordance with harmonized rules and standardized research methods for its members. As early as 1892 the organization was founded in Eberswalde, Germany. German, Swiss and Austrian forestry research centres were the founding members.

During the beginning of the First World War, IUFRO ceased to exist as a Central European organization. Up to that time, membership had been based on governmental agreements and was rising steadily. Forestry research institutes from the United States, Canada and Japan had already started to cooperate.

After the First World War, the Union was re-established and widened its membership beyond Europe. During the Second World War activities had to be reduced, of course, but they never stopped completely. An example of those ongoing activities was the field experiment on larch provenances started in 1944. The experiment was carried out in 13 states on both sides of the belligerent parties and is still maintained in IUFRO countries.

After the Second World War one of the organizations founded by the United Nations was the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and there were efforts to incorporate IUFRO into FAO. However, the Union disagreed and remained a non-political, independent, non-governmental organization based on voluntary action. This concept is still valid and helped the organization to grow to its present size.

As of 1994, IUFRO had 720 member institutions in 112 countries, gathering altogether some 15 000 individual researchers under the umbrella of this international body.

IUFRO activities are aimed at promoting international cooperation in forestry, forest operations and forest products research as well as standardization of research technologies and terminology.

Its objectives are to enhance cooperation between both forestry research organizations and individual scientists; to promote the dissemination and application of research results, and the standardization of research techniques; to address issues of regional or worldwide importance; to publish the results of meetings and research activities; to recognize outstanding contributions of scientists by various awards; and to assist developing or disadvantaged countries in strengthening their research knowledge and standards.


IUFRO's member organizations are forestry research institutions, and the individual forestry researchers belonging to these institutions are its individual members, who participate in the research network based on the IUFRO structure. IUFRO is a bottom-up organization with a broad basis. Now it has 280 working units comprising 216 working parties which cover the most topical fields of forestry and forest products research and are united in 64 project and subject groups belonging to the following 6 Divisions.

Division 1: Forest environment and silviculture

Division 2: Physiology, genetics and protection

Division 3: Forest operations and techniques

Division 4: Inventory, growth, yield, quantitative and management sciences

Division 5: Forest products

Division 6: Social, economic, information and policy sciences

This structure comprises 662 office holders - chairpersons, deputies, leaders, coordinators - all contributing on a voluntary basis.

The countries in transition to market economies are grouped in Region 3 - Eastern Europe, and the succession states of the former Yugoslavia are grouped in Region 4 - Mediterranean. These countries have, of course, participated in and contributed to IUFRO activities.

At present 49 IUFRO office holders, i.e. 7.4 percent of the total number of 662 officials, come from these countries. IUFRO would welcome a better representation of these countries in the next working period following the XX IUFRO World Congress which took place in August 1995 in Tampere, Finland.

It is expected that the trend of having continually more workshops and meetings of researchers organized by IUFRO member institutions of the former Eastern Bloc countries will continue.

Apart from the six Divisions, IUFRO also has a Special Programme for Developing Countries (SPDC) at the Secretariat in Vienna, and a Task Force on Forest, Climate Change and Air Pollution based at the Swiss Forestry Research Institute (WSL) in Birmensdorf.

The SPDC has broadened its scope and is now equally supporting developing countries and countries in transition to market economies. These countries are referred to as economically disadvantaged countries by IUFRO.


The activities that are most recognized and appreciated by the public are the IUFRO meetings. They are announced in the quarterly newsletter of the Union, "IUFRO News", and the newsletters of individual working units. More than 50 scientific meetings and workshops are held every year. In Congress years there are more than 100 meetings.

At present the countries in transition are well represented in this kind of activity and are (1993) holding 20 percent of the annual meetings of IUFRO. This is an extraordinary achievement, because there were hardly any meetings held in the former Eastern Bloc countries before 1990. IUFRO is expecting an increase in the number of meetings held in countries in transition in the next year and is ready to support such activities in kind and with funds.

The IUFRO World Congress, which now takes place every five years, is the top scientific event of the Union. The congress theme for the XX IUFRO World Congress in Tampere, 5 to 11 August 1995, was "Caring for the Forest: Research in a Changing World". There were sub-plenary sessions under the heading "Accomplishments and Challenges to Forestry Research", and interdivisional sessions under the theme "The Role of Research". As of course, there were also division and working unit activities, with the common motto "The Way Ahead".

A strong support programme will be focusing directly on scientists from economically disadvantaged countries. Separate support of congress attendance will come from IUFRO's Development Fund, which was established at the centennial celebration of our Union in 1992.

IUFRO publications are another valuable product of our activities. The quarterly newsletter, "IUFRO News", will hopefully now be accessible to all forestry scientists in the former Eastern Europe. IUFRO's Annual Report summarizes the annual achievements and output of the Union. It is mailed to all member institutes and available in their libraries.

At the previous IUFRO world congress a new publication series was introduced, the IUFRO World Series. The four volumes that have been issued so far are on sale. There is a financial support programme for Eastern Europe for the acquisition of this series.

The meetings that have been previously mentioned several times are well reflected in the number of proceedings published by the corresponding working units and kept in the reference library at IUFRO headquarters in Vienna. The proceedings of IUFRO world congresses up to 1990 present the full papers invited to participate.

Further IUFRO activities are the efforts to make twinning arrangements between IUFRO members (institutes or individuals), give research support and establish networks on a subject-related or regional basis. New ideas are just being formulated and will soon be presented. IUFRO is now preparing the installation of a gopher service via Internet and will hopefully be able to offer publications electronically before long.


IUFRO was founded in 1892 with the aim to create an efficient organization for the standardization of research methods, the development of terminology, forestry bibliographies and applied forestry and forest products research. Since 1973, the non-governmental, non-profit organization based on voluntary work has had its headquarters in Vienna, Austria. The main aim of the Union is to promote international cooperation in scientific studies embracing the whole field of research related to forestry.

IUFRO has more than 720 member institutes in 112 countries, thus counting more than 15 000 researchers as individual members. The research network - the structure of the Union - consists of 280 working units in 6 Divisions. At present there are 662 office holders managing the research activities, 49 of them coming from countries with economies in transition. Apart from the 6 Divisions, IUFRO has a Special Programme for Developing Countries (SPDC), and a Task Force. The SPDC also supports projects and individuals in countries in transition.

Every year more than 50 scientific meetings and workshops are held. The number of meetings in countries with economies in transition are increasing and reached 20 percent of the total number of meetings in 1993. IUFRO World Congresses are held every five years. A variety of newsletters and other publications are edited and published annually.

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