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July : University of Stellenbosch: Dept. Forest & Wood Science 2012 Annual Report

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22 July, 2013

University of Stellenbosch: Dept. Forest & Wood Science 2012 Annual Report

Message from the Chairman

The Department of Forest and Wood Science (DFWS) celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2012. In 1931, Stellenbosch University was identified as an appropriate provider for this field of study, and the Faculty of Forest and Wood Science was established in 1932. Since then, the Faculty (and later the Department) has awarded 890 BSc, 210 MSc, 42 PhD and 11 DSc degrees.

The Department's strategic direction during 2012 remained the same as in previous years:
  • Increase international visibility
  • Expand focus on Africa
  • Partner with industry

Not only did the Department participate in three European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) actions, but it was also awarded the South African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Use (SASSCAL) project, financed by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The focus of this project is on climate change adaptation and it has an outreach initiative into Africa, especially in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) member region. Institutions in Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Malawi form part of the consortium. Three international projects were initiated in cooperation with partners in Namibia and other SADC countries: (1) the development of an MSc course on dryland forestry, (2) sustainable woodland management and (3) optimisation of a wood conversion value chain.

Climate change remains a challenge that may only be solved through interdisciplinary and international research collaboration. Several successful projects in this area are in operation, such as the "Green Landscapes" project, a prestigious multidisciplinary and international project on holistic landscape management funded by the Department of Science and Technology-National Research Foundation (DST-NRF). This project is one of only three successful applications by Stellenbosch University, making the DFWS part of a growing climate research movement at Stellenbosch.

A European Union (EU)-financed Marie Curie International Research Staff Exchange Scheme (IRSES) mobility project, "Climate-Fit Forests", gained momentum in 2012, with the first international visitors arriving from partner universities in Germany, Italy and Switzerland. This initiative involves a broad spectrum of climate change-related research. Furthermore, projects dealing with wood quality, drought effects in natural forests, fire response of trees, and growth and wood quality of drought-resistant eucalypts came to fruition during the year.

Work on conventional tree breeding continues, and the DFWS currently is the only South African academic research institution that is part of the International Cooperative for Tree Conservation and Domestication (CAMCORE).

A Forest Engineering Southern Africa (FESA) project on the retrieval and use of forest residues for bioenergy in South Africa was undertaken and the results were released in 2012. The Department also contributed to several chapters in the new edition of the South African Forestry Handbook, which were well received by the forestry industry.

The Department has always had a clear focus on plantation forestry, documented by several successful industry-related projects. New research projects show a continuing trend in broadening this focus by incorporating woodlands and indigenous forests into its research. Besides involvement in the SASSCAL project, the Department is working on projects dealing with carbon sequestration in the mecrusse woodlands of Mozambique, the trade-off between carbon and timber production of kiaat in Namibia, firewood use in the dry woodlands of Namibia, competition effects in indigenous afrotemperate forests of the Southern Cape, and the regeneration biology of Wyddringtonia whitey in Malawi.

Prof Tim Rypstra retired at the end of December after 37 years of dedicated service to the University and the Department. We wish him well in his retirement.

In conclusion, the Department is looking forward to a productive and exciting 2013.

Thomas Seifert

Download the PDF report: Department of Forest and Wood Science 2012 Annual Report