This and other major challenges were identified during a “Forum on Ukraine Forest Science and Education – needs and Priorities for Collaboration” organised 21-22.11.2023 in Laxenburg, Austria, by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). The event was supported by the National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine (NUBiP), the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) and the Federal Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry, Regions and Water Management of Austria (BML).
High level representatives of the organisers welcomed about 50 participants and drew attention to the unprecedent challenges in Ukraine – foremostly caused by war and resulting research capacity drain, contamination, and devastation, but including also factors like climate change, forest health dynamics, wild land fires, and a decrease in forest productivity. Sergiy Zibtsev, Chair of the Forum, underlined in his opening that the Forum aims at convening the scientific expertise necessary to catalyse coordinated and impactful international action, addressing forest research needs and priorities of Ukraine.
Representatives of international organisations, such as UNEP, FAO, European Commission (EC), Forest Europe (FE), International Science Council (ISC) and International Forestry Students´ Association (IFSA) presented their options for donations respectively activities related to forestry research in Ukraine.
In another session forestry researcher from Ukraine, representing Ukrainian Research Institute of Forestry and Forest Melioration – Kharkiv (URIFFM), Ukrainian National Forest University – Lviv (UNFU) and Forest Stewardship Council Ukraine (FSC Ukraine) provided their needs and proposals for intensified international collaboration, considering impact by the war and climate change challenges.
A special session was dedicated to new approaches on NFI and related forest policies in Ukraine, related to a project financed by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture. SFI-Expert, Viktor Myroniuk, presented advanced inventory methods based on the integration of terrestrial and earth observation data. In his presentation, Volker Sasse, SFI project manager, gave an overview of the framework of the SFI-Project, achievements and further plans with regard to a remote sensing-based forest inventory (RS-Inventory) for the entire Ukraine, including the occupied territories, as well as possible follow-up measures. Both lectures were accompanied by an intensive discussion and were met with particular interest.
Sasse, further drew special attention to the potentials in administration of forestry research in Ukraine, as a base for efficient international collaboration. He pointed e.g. to shortages in public relations and transparency of forestry and forest science, coordination of forestry related research at national level in Ukraine, a project oriented budgeting of research institutions and improved English courses during higher forestry education.
With regard to a concrete collaboration measure the forum identified among others the review of the current curriculum on forest policy as well as the elaboration of a corresponding Forest Policy Study Book, based on European experiences in efficient forest policy institutions and instruments.
Although several expert groups have been working intensively on the expected Forum output – a short summary, including recommendations on strengthen scientific collaboration, the science-policy interface, international forest science collaboration and future joint activities – could not be reached and will be finalised by organisers.