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Post: From Fragmentation to Integration: A Programme Approach to Research for the Forestry Sector

Fragmentation

From Fragmentation to Integration: A Programme Approach to Research for the Forestry Sector

The Sector Innovation Fund (SIF) is a strategic partnership platform funded by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) to enable further investment from industry into research and innovation. Through partnering with key role players in certain sectors, the DSI has been working to contribute to increasing and transforming research capacity while driving sector competitiveness and productivity.

In 2022, Forestry South Africa (FSA) signed an agreement with DSI after successfully applying for funding through the SIF platform. This is the third round of SIF funding, and it is important to note that FSA has secured the largest allocation among all sectors receiving funding through the platform. A key aspect for the FSA Research Advisory Committee (RAC) was to establish projects grouped in collaborative programmes to collectively address key sector challenges. The goal was to not only have transdisciplinary initiatives but also to foster inter-institutional programmes, thereby drawing on the expertise and capacity from different institutions to generate comprehensive and crosscutting data to support data-based decision making for members.

While previous rounds worked with individual projects, the current SIF portfolio is being managed under key programmes. One such programme is the Climate Change and Risk to the Forestry Sector programme which brings together several institutions, including Wits University, Stellenbosch University, the University of Pretoria and Sappi. This programme aims to identify and develop measures to enhance resource resilience, reduce risk and increase sustainability of the Forestry Sector in line with high resolution climate projections. This programme brings together climate change research from various angles to comprehensively address key knowledge gaps through improved access to local, high-resolution climate data, to its application in genomics and phenomics.

This is crucial to the Forestry Sector in South Africa. Continued rising temperatures and disruption of water availability through expected reduced rainfall and altered rainfall distribution during growing seasons is expected to result in short and medium durations of water stress and longer durations of drought stress. This can affect tree physiology through reduced growth rate, altered wood properties, leaf and branch drop, unfavourable tree form and partial to full tree mortality. In addition, trees that are stressed can be more susceptible to infestation with pests and diseases. This programme not only addresses climate risk but positions the Sector to understand the impact of climate change and to address this with gene assisted breeding.

Other programmes include Climate Change and Site Resource Resilience, Forest Management and Remote Sensing, and a Precision Forestry Approach to Modernising Pesticide Testing, Availability, and Sustainable Use Across the Forestry Sector (TIPWG). The Climate Change and Site Resource Resilience programme aims to provide science-based knowledge on behalf of the South African Forestry Sector to move from Tier 1 to Tier 2 reporting by developing country-specific data in different site conditions. Meanwhile, the Forest Management and Remote Sensing programme seeks to enhance operational efficiency using remotely sensed data. Lastly, the TIPWG programme aims to improve the pest management toolkit available to the Forestry Sector while building capacity in the field.

Fragmentation Fragmentation

A Programme Approach

The Forestry Sector is well known for harnessing the value of a collective and collaborative approach to research, with research partners contributing to the Sector’s research capacity through their collaborations with international research partners.

While collaboration is important it is not merely a gathering of people around a table. It requires a structure, with a path to follow, rules of engagement, and constant coordination. Setting up SIF-research projects into programmes provides such a framework for collaboration. Each programme has been established with a programme advisory committee tasked with providing advisory and oversight functions, ensuring alignment and synergy among projects, and maintaining connections to industry needs. These advisory committees consist of the Principal Investigators (PI’s) and key industry members and academic partners that provide guidance on the projects. All programmes ultimately report to the SIF Steering Committee, which oversees the entire portfolio, ensuring it remains on track to deliver on the strategic objectives identified by industry and government, while also monitoring progress towards their fulfilment.

Into the future

Ensuring a collaborative and collective approach across the Forestry Sector’s research portfolio will not only enable the Sector to have access to required data and information, but it will position it to address future challenges. This is achieved through harnessing the total research capacity as a collective complimenting each other. Coordinating programmes rather than projects helps to drive research collaboration across institutions and drives more integrated information and research outcomes that can support decision making for the Forestry Sector. FSA will continue to foster the research dialogue between industry, government and the research community, to position the Sector to address the various challenges it faces, both now and in the future.

By: Stefan Links, FSA Research and Protection Manager and Dr Ronald Heath FSA Director Research, Protection and Communications
Source: FSA Magazine

 

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From Fragmentation to Integration: A Programme Approach to Research for the Forestry Sector

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