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The international union of forest research organizations

President, IUFRO

THE combination of letters, IUFRO, by which the International Union of Forest Research Organizations is now generally known, is, doubtless, familiar to most readers of Unasylva but many may not be aware of the Union's interesting history, which goes back now for 70 years, nor of its attempts to maintain effective international co-operation in its own field over that lengthy period of time.

The Union was initiated in 1890. In that year, an International Congress for Agriculture and Forestry was held at Vienna and during the proceedings one of its sections proposed the formation of an international association of forest research stations. A committee was set up to examine the proposal, a committee composed of Boppe from Nancy, Bühler from Zurich, Danckelmann from Eberswalde, and Friedrich from Mariabrunn. This strong committee was reinforced, a little later, by the addition of Schuberg from Baden.

Shortly after 1870, an association of forest experimental stations in the various states of the German Empire had been founded and this association held meetings, usually annually, at which common problems were discussed. In 1891, the German association invited to its meeting at Badenweiler in the Black Forest the committee which had been appointed the previous year at Vienna to consider the establishment of an international body and, as a result of the joint discussions, agreement was reached on the general outlines of the new organization and on the proposals which should be made to the various governments concerned. Although, therefore, the foundation of the Union can be regarded as dating from this meeting in 1891 in Badenweiler, the Union did not emerge as an independent body till the following year.

In 1893, the Union held its first meeting at Mariabrunn. It was a small affair, the only members being the Swiss, Austrian and German research institutes, but delegates from France, Hungary and Italy were also present, presumably in the capacity of observers. The second meeting was held at Brunswick in 1896 when 16 delegates were present, including one from Russia and one from Sweden, while the third assembly took place at Zurich in 1900. For its fourth meeting in 1903, the Union went back to Mariabrunn. This meeting was one of some consequence, for during the sessions, the delegates worked out a form of constitution and agreed formally on the name, which has been used ever since - Internationaler Verband forstlicher Forschungsanstalten. The fifth assembly of the Union took place at Stuttgart in 1906 when there were 33 delegates from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Russia, Switzerland and the United States of America, while the sixth meeting was held in 1910 at Brussels, the first time that the Union had moved out of the German-speaking countries. The attendance at this meeting in Belgium was proof of wider interest in the Union's work and activities, for 18 countries were in all represented including newcomers such as Canada, the Netherlands, Japan, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain and the United Kingdom.

It was agreed in Brussels that the seventh congress of the Union should be held in Hungary in 1914 but that never happened, for the war of 1914-18 broke out about a month before the congress was due to open and it was to be a long time before the next gathering took place. The 1910 meeting in Brussels, therefore, marked the end of the first stage in the Union's development, a stage which saw its gradual evolution from an association composed of members drawn exclusively from the German-speaking countries, into a body which, though still small, had become truly international.

Early subjects for discussion

It is interesting to look back on some of the subjects which were discussed at those early meetings. Thinning and thinning experiments were much in evidence from the very first meeting, when Lorey advocated the inclusion of a crown thinning treatment in every set of comparative plots. Provenance of seed was also in the forefront of the discussions which led, in 1907, to the first international scheme for comparing the growth of Scots pine drawn from a wide range of origins in Europe, undertaken by Austria, Belgium, Germany, Hungary and Sweden. Among other subjects noted in the records are the effect of forests on the water table, the measurement of rainfall which runs down the stems of trees, yield tables, site descriptions, manuring in forestry and the factors to be measured in tree growth. Forest bibliography caused the Union some concern in the old days, for, although the number of articles, papers and books on forestry was then small in comparison with what it is today, our predecessors were nevertheless aware of the need for classifying forest literature and making it available to research workers. In the end, this problem was to prove too great for the Union, the slender resources of which were insufficient to solve it.

The 1914-18 war brutally interrupted the work which the Union had been pursuing in the field of co-operative forest research and so disastrous was its effect on this small organization that it was not possible for members to resume relationship with each other in the old way. It was not until 1926, on the occasion of the First World Forestry Congress, that research workers from Europe and North America decided that the Union ought to be revived, and this was effected three years later when the reconstituted Union met at the Stockholm Congress under the presidency of Professor Hesselman.

Reorganization of the Union

At this congress, the organization of the Union was completely revised, the most important change being the appointment of a Secretary-General responsible for most of the administration. This provided the Union with something which it had lacked in its early days. For a considerable number of years this office was held by the distinguished Swedish forester, Professor Sven Petrini, to whose paper, "International co-operation in forestry," published in 1938 in Svenska Skogswrdsföreningens, I am indebted for much information on the early history of the Union. Under the new regime, the Union began to expand once more and to undertake new ventures in the field of international cooperation. The eighth congress was held in 1932 at Nancy and the ninth in Hungary in 1936. It was agreed to hold the tenth congress in 1940 in Finland but this congress, like that planned for 1914, did not take place and for the same reason, the outbreak of war.

Bibliography and forest tree seed exchange

In the all-too-brief period between 1929 and 1940, the Union in its second phase was engaged in certain major projects. The first of these was an attempt to deal with the difficult and long outstanding problem of bibliography, the main objects of which were to provide an information service covering all current writings on forestry and to classify the older literature. The attempt to deal with current publications was continued for a number of years but, in the end, unfortunately failed. This is not surprising when the complexities of the problem are considered in the light of the slender resources which the Union was able to command but there is no doubt that much was learned in the course of this bold experiment.

Other work in the field of bibliography was more successful. A system of classification, with which the name of Flury is associated, was elaborated, and this marked a very great step forward, although Flury's system has now been superseded by that from Oxford, with which the Union also has been associated. The proposal that each country should prepare a bibliography of its own forest literature met with only partial success as the admirable bibliographies produced by Denmark and by Hungary were not followed by similar works from other countries. Indeed, it is only within the last two years that a third national bibliography has appeared on the scene - the Bibliografia Forestiera Romina - produced in 1958 by the Forest Research Institute in Bucharest, one of the member institutes of the Union.

During this period the Union organized the exchange of forest tree seed of known provenance and arranged for the conduct internationally of provenance trials of Norway spruce and Scots pine. Work was carried out on the standardization of site descriptions in forest research and a brief code of sample plot procedure was worked out and published.

Postwar developments - relationship with FAO

The second world war lasted longer than the first but in 1939 the Union was a much stronger body than it had been in 1914, and it was able to meet again at its tenth congress at Zurich in 1948 under its President, Lonnröth. But a new development had occurred immediately after the war ended. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations was given a Division of Forestry and there was strong pressure on the Union to give up its identity and merge with the Forestry Division of FAO. This was strongly resisted by the Union. The negotiations conducted by Lonnröth and by his successor Burger led to an agreement between the Union and FAO by which FAO assumed the Secretariat of the Union and undertook to help the Union in various ways, while the Union agreed to have an observer from FAO at its committee and other meetings. The arrangement whereby the Secretariat resided with FAO at Rome, while the President was elsewhere, was not an easy one to operate and that it worked as well as it did was due largely to the skill of FAO's representative, I. T. Haig, who rendered great service to the Union, and indeed to forest research the world over during those difficult postwar years.

At the same time the Union reorganized its scientific work by dividing it into sections each under an eminent forest scientist as section leader. The work of the sections comes under review periodically when congresses are held but between these meetings the sections enjoy a considerable amount of freedom in action. This is as it should be in a voluntary organization. It is perhaps not generally known that the section leaders undertake a very large amount of work and this is all done voluntarily and without payment.

At present, the following are the sections and section leaders:

Section 01

Forest bibliography

Prof. E. Saari, Helsinki (Joint FAO/ IUFRO Committee)

Section 11

General forest influences

Dr. H. G. Wilm, Albany, New York

Section 21

Research on site factors

Prof. A. de Philippis, Florence

Section 22

Study of forest plants

Dr. C. Syrach Larsen, Horsholm, Denmark

Section 23


Prof. H. Leibundgut, Zurich

Section 24

Forest protection

Prof. A. Biraghi, Florence

Section 25

Growth and yield. Forest management

Prof. Fehim Firat, Istanbul

Section 31

Forest economics

Prof. J. Speer, Munich

Section 32

Operational efficiency

Prof. U. Sundberg, Stockholm

Section 41

Mechanical conversion

Prof. J. Campredon, Paris.

The Union held its eleventh congress at Rome in 1953 and its twelfth in 1956 at Oxford. Both congresses were largely attended and attracted wide attention.

Reference has been made to the agreement with FAO which was signed on 1 January 1949, but changes have recently taken place in the relations between the two bodies. In 1957, FAO asked to be relieved of the obligation to provide a secretariat for the Union and to this the Union agreed; a year later the Union was given specialized consultative status by FAO. Relations have been most cordial during recent years and have undoubtedly become closer. FAO, by means of various grants of money, has made it possible for the Union to carry out, through its members, several useful pieces of research while the Union, on its side, is prepared to give what help it can in research matters to the larger organization in Rome, either by undertaking specific tasks or by making available, by means of its publications, information and guidance on research matters.

The affairs of the Union are administered by the President, Vice-President (H. Van Vloten) and its permanent committee which meets annually, each year in a different country, and which is responsible to the International Council, the ruling body in the Union, but, as this only meets when a Congress is in session, the Permanent Committee is given considerable powers in order to carry on the business effectively. This committee is representative of forest research the world over and, at the present time, it consists of the following members: T. Bunusevac (Yugoslavia), C. Carbonnier (Sweden), R. N. Datta (India), V. L. Harper (United States of America), A. Horky (Austria), C. F. Korstian (United States of America), M. Kreutzinger (Poland), J. Lebrun (Institut national pour l'étude agronomique du Congo [INEAC]), M. Ohmasa (Japan), A. Oudin (France), A. Uzcategui (Venezuela). A, Métro acts as Observer from FAO.

The Union, with a membership of nearly 140 research stations and university departments, is now looking forward to its thirteenth congress which will be held at Vienna in September 1961. An attractive program is being prepared and the discussions will range over a wide variety of topics. The congress, which will last for one week, will be preceded or followed by tours in different parts of Austria.


In Unasylva, Volume 14, Number 4, a printing error occurred on page 198 in the item Oxford System of Decimal Classification. Under At 17 (a) and (b), double hyphens (--) should be substituted for dashes (-).

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