IUFRO: the International Union of Forest Research Organizations

Photograph of Liesjärvi National Park in Finland. Image Credit: A. Stenberg.

Liesjärvi National Park in Finland. Image Credit: A. Stenberg.

The world’s total forest area is more than 4 billion hectares, which accounts for about 31 percent of the Earth’s total land area. Forests play an essential role for populations all over the world as part of the living environment and as a source of natural resources. Conservation and sustainable management of forests are closely linked with important global issues such as food supply, global climate change and biodiversity. Due to global issues and because climate does not respect borders, close international cooperation in forest science and related disciplines is required.

The International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) is the only worldwide international organization devoted to forest research and related sciences. IUFRO is a nonprofit, non-governmental and non-discriminatory organization with a long tradition dating back to 1892. Its main objectives are to promote networking activities; generate, exchange and disseminate scientific knowledge; provide access to relevant information; and assist scientists and institutions to strengthen their research capacities.

IUFRO promotes global cooperation in forest-related research to enhance the understanding of the ecological, economic and social aspects of forests and trees; disseminate scientific knowledge to stakeholders and decision-makers; and contribute to policy and on-the-ground forest management.

Its membership inlcudes research organizations, universities and individual scientists, as well as decision-making authorities and other stakeholders with an interest in and focus on forests and trees. It unites more than 15,000 scientists in almost 700 Member Organizations in more than 110 countries, who cooperate on a voluntary basis. The mission of IUFRO is to promote the coordination of and international cooperation in scientific studies embracing the whole field of research related to forests and trees for the well-being of forests and the people that depend on them. IUFRO is open to all individuals and organizations dedicated to forest and forest product research and related disciplines.

With the Strategy 2010-14, IUFRO addresses six Research Goals:

(i) Forests for People
(ii) Forests and Climate Change
(iii) Forest Bioenergy
(iv) Forest Biodiversity Conservation
(v) Forest and Water Interactions
(vi) Resources for the Future.

It also has three Institutional Goals: to strengthen research and expand IUFRO’s capacity for interdisciplinary cooperation, to strengthen coordination within the scientific community and increase visibility of science-based research findings, and to further strengthen IUFRO’s work at the science-policy interface.

Attaining research and institutional goals help IUFRO and its members to effectively respond to the changes in paradigms concerning forests and forest science and to position the organization as a truly global network for forest science cooperation.

There are nine Scientific Divisions within IUFRO:

(i) Silviculture
(ii) Physiology and Genetics
(iii) Forest Operations Engineering and Management
(iv) Forest Assessment, Modelling and Management
(v) Forest Products
(vi) Social Aspects of Forests and Forestry
(vii) Forest Health
(viii) Forest Environment
(ix) Forest Policy and Economics.

The Scientific Divisions are divided into several subdivisions, which connect researchers interested in specific fields. These subdivisions are the real workshops of IUFRO. Scientists networked within the subdivisions work together in specific themes, keeping close connections by e-mailing, organizing scientific conferences and workshops, and publishing joint papers.

IUFRO logo. Image Credit: www.iufro.org

Image Credit: www.iufro.org

Within its Division 4- Forest Assessment, Modelling and Management, IUFRO provides unique opportunities to work together in an international and interdisciplinary environment to connect aerial and orbital observations to the real world.

In addition to subdivision 4.02.05 Remote sensing, there are 28 other subdivisions involved in field inventories, modelling and risk analysis, and planning and adaptation. Forest researchers and scientists connected within IUFRO have access to national field inventories worldwide, and can therefore validate forest growth models or biomass models, land-use changes or forest health observations developed on remote-sensing data.

Further to the nine thematic Divisions and many Subdivisions, there are 11 Interdisciplinary Task Forces in IUFRO: (ITF-1) International Forest Governance, (ITF-2) Resources for the Future, (ITF-3) Forest and Water Interactions, (ITF-4) Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, (ITF-5) Forest Bioenergy, (ITF-6) Forests and Climate Change, (ITF-7) Forests for People, (ITF-8) Education in Forest Science, (ITF-9) Traditional Forest Knowledge, (ITF-10) Forests and Human Health, and (ITF-11) Former Task Forces.

Without a doubt, IUFRO provides unique networking opportunities to make global connections, discuss and share research studies and projects, and cooperate with scientists from their field of expertise and other disciplines. On the IUFRO’s platforms, it is easy to participate in a wide range of collaborative activities covering all main areas of core and interdisciplinary research related to forests and trees. Under the umbrella of IUFRO, international, regional and national representations have been confirmed. Furthermore, those who participate in IUFRO activities take advantage of IUFRO’s representation in high-level international forums such as the United Nations Forum on Forests, and the United Nations Climate Change and Biodiversity Conventions, and benefit from IUFRO’s close cooperation with other scientific fields and groups of civil society.

For more information, visit the IUFRO website.

Dr. Laszlo Bela Szendrodi, Ph.D., is associate professor at the University of West Hungary (Sopron), sci-entific secretary for COST (1998-2001), science counsellor at The Permanent Representation of Hungary to the EU (2003-2007), national expert to the European Commission DG Research (2008-2010), former chair of the Working Party on Research (G13) and the Joint Working Party for Research and Atomic Questions (G14) of the European Council under the Hungarian presidency (2011), and senior scientist at the JRC IES.

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