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World Health Day 2011: Forests Provide Untapped Resources for Human Health

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Vienna/Vantaa – “It is not commonly understood how much – even in our hypermodern urban age – human health and well-being are influenced by forests and trees”, said Professor Hannu Raitio, coordinator of the IUFRO Task Force on Forests and Human Health of the Vienna-based International Union of Forest Research Organizations, and Director General of the Finnish Forest Research Institute Metla in Vantaa, prior to World Health Day on 7 April. Research shows that there is a huge untapped economic and health potential in forest biodiversity. “Preserving biodiversity attains an autonomous value – independent of any uses known at the present time”, said Professor Raitio.

Loss of species and decrease in biodiversity always imply a potential loss of health-related ecosystem services and genetic resources. The conservation of the earth’s biological diversity, of which a large part is found in forests, is increasingly recognized as an important goal. Preserving biodiversity is rational also from an economic point of view. As noted in FAO’s State of the World’s Forests 2011, many top-selling herbal products such as goji and echinacea are derived from forests, and the collection and trade of raw materials continues to significantly affect forest economies. Probably more than half of the most prescribed medicines – also in the Western pharmacopoeia – are based on chemical compounds found in natural organisms. “Even if the drug is produced synthetically, it is often first found in nature, or it may be a modification of some naturally occurring compound. We start to realize that every organism is a potent bioreactor with unique capabilities”, stated Professor Raitio.

Medical treasures waiting to be discovered
Currently only less than one per cent of all known plants are thoroughly analyzed for pharmaceuticals and with microbes, fungi and animals the percentage is even smaller. Only a small fraction of all existing species of organisms have been discovered and described so far. Moreover, all higher plants are hosts to one or more endophytic microbes, organisms residing in tissues between or among living plant cells. Of the estimated 500,000 plant species living on the planet, only a handful has had their endophytic microflora thoroughly studied.

“There are medical treasures waiting to be discovered in forest plants literally everywhere. For example, we recently began a study on the microflora of the root system of the common Scots Pine, Pinus sylvestris“, informed Professor Raitio: “We wanted to see what kind of chemical substances can be found in the microscopic fungi that are living symbiotically with the tree, and test them against the age-related eye disease (AREDS), which is a major cause of vision loss in people of advanced age all over the world. We thought that in a few years we may find a substance that could be of potential use, but only after a few months of research we already had our first candidate. We are now cooperating with medical doctors to develop a medicine of it.”

Traditional medicine also greatly relies on forest resources, for example in the treatment of malaria. Most of the hundreds of millions of cases of malaria each year are in sub-Saharan Africa, where it is the second highest cause of death from infectious disease. Poor communities have limited access to modern drugs, with the majority relying on traditional medicine in treating malaria. The World Agroforestry Centre recently published a guide entitled  ‘Common Antimalarial Trees and Shrubs of East Africa’, which describes 22 species of trees and shrubs that are used as antimalarial treatments in East Africa by traditional medical practitioners and rural communities. “These species have great potential for further study and development as readily available alternative treatments for the curse of malaria,” said Najma Dharani, the main author of the book.

Sustainable management of forests to be key
Forests support the livelihoods of millions of people by providing food, water, fuel, protection against natural hazards etc., and offer a range of health-related goods and services, from medicinal compounds to the support of our psychological capacity and mental health. The key to preserve these ecosystem services is sustainable forest management (SFM), aiming at a balance between society’s increasing demands for forest products and benefits, and the preservation of forest health and diversity. This balance is critical to the survival of forests and the health of people depending on forests. “These people do not only include the forest-dwelling native tribes in various corners of the world, but every one of us, wherever we live, and whatever is our industrial or economic level. This is the most important message for us all on the World Health Day and in the United Nation’s International Year of Forests 2011“, said Professor Raitio.

The international group of scientists of the interdisciplinary IUFRO Task Force recently suggested taking into account human health aspects in all forest management activities systematically. This could be done through applying the Health Impact Assessment (HIA), a program which is promoted actively by the World Health Organization (WHO) and is to date mainly being used in urban planning, to forest-related issues. For this purpose, a set of forest-related human health indicators could be developed and included in public health reports in a similar way as they are often included in reports on water, energy, mining, biodiversity and agriculture.


For more information
:
Gerda Wolfrum, wolfrum(at)iufro.org, International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO)
IUFRO Task Force on Forests and Human Health

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The Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) is a voluntary arrangement among 14 international organizations and secretariats with substantial programs on forests. The CPF’s mission is to promote the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forest and strengthen long term political commitment to this end.

CPF members:

– Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)
– Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
– International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO)
– International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO)
– Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD Secretariat)
– Global Environment Facility (GEF Secretariat)
– United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD Secretariat)
– United Nations Forum on Forest (UNFF Secretariat)
– United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC Secretariat)
– United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
– United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
– World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)
– World Bank (World Bank)
– The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

IUFRO Board Paves the Way for Attaining Strategic Goals

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From 23 to 25 February 2011, more than 50 members of the IUFRO Enlarged Board from 24 countries met in Vienna, Austria, for the 50th IUFRO Board Meeting. This was the first gathering of the new Board that had been elected at the XXIII World Congress in Seoul, Korea, in August 2010, for the period 2010-2014.

The Board welcomed and approved those new members and officeholders that have decided to join IUFRO’s global network, and approved the establishment of various new Research Groups and Working Parties. It appointed IUFRO-SPDC Coordinator Michael Kleine as new Deputy Executive Director and welcomed Jan Heino as IUFRO’s new Development Officer.

The one-day business meeting was followed by a two-day scientific seminar in the nearby Vienna Woods to discuss how the six key research goals of IUFRO and, consequently, the three institutional goals formulated in the IUFRO Strategy 2010-2014 could be attained.

For this purpose, the IUFRO Enlarged Board members concentrated on preparing a roadmap for new Task Forces that would be dealing with the six research goals. Together with the proposed Task Force Coordinators – each of them internationally recognized experts in their respective fields – they identified those thematic areas to which the new interdisciplinary Task Forces can add the most value to both the scientific discourse and policy deliberations. For each theme they also discussed specific entry points for the nine Divisions. The Task Forces will not generate new research but assess and synthesize existing knowledge and identify knowledge gaps. They should not duplicate work that is already underway by other institutions. Forest governance as a cross-cutting issue should be addressed by all Task Forces.

IUFRO key research goals (Task Force Coordinators/Deputies):

Forests for People (Ulrike Pröbstl, BOKU/Perry Brown, University of Montana)
Forests and Climate Change (Frances Seymour, CIFOR/Markku Kanninen, University of Helsinki)
Forest Bioenergy (Rolf Björheden, Skogforsk/Elspeth McRae, Scion)
Forest Biodiversity Conservation (Bryan Finegan, CATIE/Saw Leng Guan, FRIM)
Forest and Water Interactions (Tony Simons, ICRAF/Shirong Liu, Chinese Academy of Forestry)
Resources for the Future (John Innes, UBC/Jung-Hwan Park, KFRI)

As part of the overall roadmap agreed at the seminar, each Task Force will define cross-disciplinary activities and expected outputs and enter them into a realistic time schedule considering the resources that might be needed and identifying potential Task Force members. The Task Force Coordinators were asked to present respective Terms of Reference by early April 2011. Results of the work shall be presented prominently, among a series of other occasions, at the XXIV IUFRO World Congress in autumn 2014 in Salt Lake City, USA.

IUFRO President Niels Elers Koch commented the process confidently, “In the past IUFRO sometimes failed to start Task Forces in the right way. It was often difficult to mobilize the great knowledge and experience available in our Divisions for science-policy interactions. With this meeting, however, we want to capitalize properly on this knowledge and involve the Divisions from the very start. So it seems that we have put the Task Forces on track successfully.

XXIII IUFRO World Congress: The Seoul Resolution

In the Seoul Resolution, IUFRO sets its goals for the coming years.

THE SEOUL RESOLUTION

The XXIII IUFRO World Congress “Forests for the Future: Sustaining Society and the Environment” provided a unique forum for presentation and discussion of the results of current global research related to forests and trees.  The Congress explored a broad range of current and emerging issues of great importance for the future of forests and their capacity to provide the environmental, economic, social, cultural, and health benefits that sustain rural and urban societies worldwide.

During this historic International Year of Biodiversity, in anticipation of the upcoming International Year of Forests, and recognizing the vital role that forest science must play in meeting the common challenges we face worldwide, IUFRO commits itself to:

Focusing more on scientific research and international collaboration in six thematic areas:  Forests for People; Climate Change and Forestry; Bio-Energy; Forest Biodiversity Conservation; Forests and Water Interactions; and Forest Resources for the Future.

Further, IUFRO commits itself to the following goals:

Improving communication within the IUFRO structure, with other scientists, students, forest professionals, and the public; and increasing visibility and accessibility of research findings;

Expanding and deepening IUFRO’s work at the science-policy interface by enhancing scientific contributions to international processes, conventions, and organizations; responding rapidly to new policy issues; expanding partnerships and collaborating with international organizations and processes through the provision of scientific information and policy options;

Urging member institutions and external stakeholders to renew and strengthen forest monitoring activities and support global monitoring efforts;

Improving IUFRO’s capacity to expand its membership and funding base to provide support for the full range of IUFRO’s activities to benefit the forest researchers belonging to IUFRO’s member organizations; and

Promoting high-quality forest-related research and expanding IUFRO’s capacity for interdisciplinary  cooperation; strengthening scientific capacity; relating the work of all IUFRO units to the six thematic areas; broadening IUFRO’s membership base; and identifying emerging issues and changing paradigms.

THE SEOUL RESOLUTION –  LA RESOLUCIÓN DE SEÚL –  LA RESOLUTION DE SEOUL –  DIE RESOLUTION VON SEOUL

And the Winner is…

On Saturday, 28 August, the last day of the IUFRO World Congress, the winners of IUFRO’s Best Poster Award were announced. They are:

Div 1 / Pifeng Lei, University of Freiburg, Germany
“Belowground niche separation and productivity in tree species mixtures

Div 2 / Yoshihiro Hosoo, Shinshu University, Japan
“Isolation and analysis of a gene encoding a potassium membrane transport protein from Cryptomeria japonica”

Div 4 / Sungho Choi, Korea University, Korea
“Predicting the changes in forest distribution using the thermal and hydrological indices”

Div 5 / Lee Su-Yeon, Seoul National University,
“Analysis of terpenoids released during the drying process of Cryptomeria
japonica”

Div 6 / Maija Faehnle, Finnish Forest Research Institute, Finland
“Evaluating the use of social information in urban forest planning”

Div 7 / Takahashi Yukiko, The University of Tokyo, Japan
“Genetic diversity of the pathogen of Japanese oak wilt, Raffaelea quercivora, in the gallery bored in an oak tree, and mycaniga of the ambrosia beetle, Platypus quercivorus”

Div 8 / Ahn Young San, Korea Forest Research Institute, Korea
“Historical change in sediment yield in Lake Toro catchment, Kushiro/mire, northern Japan over the past 300 years”

CONGRATULATIONS!

The IUFRO Congress comes to an end…

Saturday was the sixth and final day of the XXIII IUFRO World Congress. After one more round of scientific sessions and administrative meetings, the day’s highlight were the Closing Ceremony and the Farewell Gala Event. Read more about it in Saturday’s Congress Daily.

The participants of the Closing Ceremony heard about the decisions of IUFRO’s International Council, such as the election of the new IUFRO Board and President, the selection of the Congress venue 2014 and the selection of two new Honorary Members.

During the following Farewell Gala Event, there was singing, dancing, cooking and a lot of toasting, as IUFRO bid farewell to host country Korea and Korea bid farewell to IUFRO.

Thank you for this wonderful IUFRO World Congress!

Excursion time!

Yesterday, the in-Congress excursions took place: despite rainy weather, over 1,350 delegates on eight tours fanned out across three provinces, to explore a biodiversity area, an experimental forest, a tree breeding facility, a forest education center, an ancient royal forest preserve, a chestnut plantation, a recreational forest, and a once-ravaged, high-altitude area that has been successfully replanted. If you want to know more, read the Thursday Congress Daily.

This is the first IUFRO World Congress where social media are widely used – if you want to know to what extent, conduct a search for IUFRO on Twitter – you’ll be amazed!

There are also several blogs showing the many aspects a IUFRO World Congress can offer. The following is just a small selection:

And the Congress continues…

Three days of the scientific programme of the IUFRO World Congress are already finished and many special events, such as the President’s Discussion and the Directors’ Forum, have taken place.

Apart from hard-core science in sub-plenary and technical session, there have been in-corridor chats, in-corridor dancing and the Bibimbap performance. Visit the Photo Gallery to see all the latest pictures.

Also read the “Congress Daily” for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to learn in greater detail what has been g0ing on at the Congress.

And finally, you might want to see what the French Ministry of Agriculture posted on its website about the IUFRO World Congress!

IUFRO News Special Issue: Scientific Awards

XXIII IUFRO World Congress
23-28 August 2010
Seoul, Republic of Korea

The International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) honours through a variety of awards those who advance science and promote international cooperation in all fields of research related to forestry.  At each IUFRO World Congress, the following awards for scientific work are presented:

* Scientific Achievement Award (SAA): Awards will be made for outstanding research published in scientific journals, proceedings of scientific meetings or books, or appropriate patents or other relevant evidence that clearly demonstrates the importance of the nominee’s achievements to the advancement of regional or world forestry or forest research. The SAA will be presented during the Opening Ceremony of the Congress on Monday, August 23.

* Outstanding Doctoral Research Award (ODRA): Awards will be made for path-breaking doctoral dissertations within six years after completion of the dissertation. The ODRA will be presented at a special sub-plenary session “IUFRO Award Winners – the Next Generation” on Tuesday, August 24 where Awardees will participate in a special panel discussion.

* Best Poster Award (BPA): Awards will be made for outstanding poster presentations at the IUFRO World Congress, for quality of research design, presentation of data, organization and neatness of the poster. Special mention of the award winners will be made during the Closing Ceremony of the Congress on Saturday, August 28.

* The IUFRO World Congress Host Scientific Award will be presented for the second time at this Congress: It honours a truly outstanding and accomplished scientist from the Congress host country who has elevated the profile of forest science and research.
The World Congress Host Scientific Award will be presented during the Opening Ceremony of the Congress on Monday, August 23.

* IUFRO Student Awards for Excellence in Forest Science (ISA) will also be presented for the second time: This award recognizes outstanding individual achievements in forest science made by Master’s degree students (or equivalent), and is to encourage their further work within the fields of research covered y the Union. The ISA will be presented at a special sub-plenary session “IUFRO Award Winners – the Next Generation” on Tuesday, August 24 where Awardees will participate in a special panel discussion.

Apart from the Best Poster Award winners, who will be chosen during the Congress, all award winners have already been selected and are presented in the IUFRO News Special Issue on Scientific Awards.

The Healing Effects of Forests

 

Maybe there’s something to that “hug a tree” idea.

“Many people,” says Dr. Eeva Karjalainen, of the Finnish Forest Research Institute, Metla, “feel relaxed and good when they are out in nature. But not many of us know that there is also scientific evidence about the healing effects of nature.”

Forests – and other natural, green settings – can reduce stress, improve moods, reduce anger and aggressiveness and increase overall happiness. Forest visits may also strengthen our immune system by increasing the activity and number of natural killer cells that destroy cancer cells.

Many studies show that after stressful or concentration-demanding situations, people recover faster and better in natural environments than in urban settings. Blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and the level of “stress hormones” all decrease faster in natural settings. Depression, anger and aggressiveness are reduced in green environments and ADHD symptoms in children reduce when they play in green settings.

In addition to mental and emotional well-being, more than half of the most commonly prescribed drugs include compounds derived from nature – for example Taxol, used against ovarian and breast cancer, is derived from yew trees, while Xylitol, which can inhibit caries, is produced from hardwood bark.

Dr. Karjalainen will coordinate a session on the health benefits of forests at the 2010 IUFRO World Forestry Congress in Seoul. “Preserving green areas and trees in cities is very important to help people recover from stress, maintain health and cure diseases.  There is also monetary value in improving people’s working ability and reducing health care costs.” she says.

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IUFRO - The International Union of Forest Research Organizations