BES Forest Ecology Group

A British Ecological Society Special Interest Group

Forestry back in Oxford

by Prof. Jeff Burley

A hundred years of forestry at Oxford revitalized

Forestry has been a major activity in Oxford University for over a century. From 1905 the Forestry Department and later the Forestry Institute conducted not just teaching and research at undergraduate, postgraduate and professional levels but also provided advice and information for international and national agencies and organizations throughout the developing world.

The Department of Plant Sciences, Oxford University, erstwhile Oxford Forestry Institute

The Department of Plant Sciences, Oxford University, erstwhile Oxford Forestry Institute

In 2002 the Oxford Forestry Institute (formerly Imperial and then Commonwealth Forestry Institute), then located within the Department of Plant Sciences, was closed and elements of relevant teaching and research were taken up in a range of University institutions including the Departments or Schools of Business, Geography and Environment, History, History of Medicine, Human Sciences, Plant Sciences and Zoology.

A recent benefaction by Sir Martin and Lady Wood has endowed a new professorship in forest science within the Department of Plant Sciences. (This may cause some confusion as it is called the “Wood Professorship in Forest Science” but it does not commit the holder of the post to study only that major forest product.)

The new incumbent, Professor John Mackay, formerly of Laval University in Canada, gave his inaugural lecture before the Vice-Chancellor and a hundred guests in the Examination Schools on 6 November 2014. A summary of the lecture is given below and reflects superbly the links between pure research, policy, management and use of forests and forest products and services.

“Sustainable forest management has three targets: healthy forest ecosystems, productive forestlands, and economic value. In the 21st century, increased pressures on land from human population growth and public demands for more responsible use of forests have emerged as increasingly important for forest sustainability. In addition, environmental change including global warming has brought considerable attention to predicting the fate of trees and forests. Understanding the ability of trees to adapt to changing conditions has become a central research question and a matter of much debate. Population genetics and evolutionary biology clearly teach that tree populations are able to adapt to environmental conditions; however, our understanding of how trees adapt is insufficient to discern their adaptability to rapid change. Recent research developments in forest genomics are beginning to fill the knowledge gap and are paving the way to future progress toward understanding the adaptability of trees. The roadmap for the future of trees and forests must include an improved understanding of adaptability; this knowledge will contribute to the sustainability of forestry practices and inform natural resource policy.”

Professor Jeff Burley

Director-Emeritus, Oxford Forestry Institute

Vice-President, CFA

This article will be published in the December 2014 issue of the CFA Newsletter.  For more information visit

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This entry was posted on November 17, 2014 by in Uncategorized and tagged .

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