Welcome To Forestry South Africa
Monday, June 26, 2017

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Research : Stellenbosch University

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Stellenbosch University

Department of Forest and Wood Science


Stellenbosch South Africa has beautiful forests. Some of the tree species a​re used for timber that compares favourably with the best in the world. Unfortunately, our forests of indigenous trees are limited, and many years ago it was found necessary to plant tree species from other parts of the world. The demand for timber shows a steady increase. To meet the need for timber, and to ensure adequate timber resources for the future, production from the current 1,3 million ha of afforested area must be expanded by establishing new forests or by increasing ​the current level of production from existing forests.​ When trees reach maturity, they must
be harvested. This facet of the forestry industry is very complex, especially where trees are growing on steep mountain slopes. Road systems must be planned in detail and expensive harvesting equipment must be acquired and used efficiently.

​The processing of the timber is the next step in the value-adding chain. This can be done either at a sawmill, where it is sawn, seasoned and graded, ready to be used in building or furniture, or at a paper mill, or at some other plant for processing into chips or fibre. Forests do not only meet our timber needs. They also provide outdoor recreational facilities. The need for forests and parks is becoming increasingly important, especially with the current population growth. The majority of forestry areas are accessible to the public. The wider field of conservation ecology addresses this aspect, for example through the conservation of the fauna and flora and the management of the natural environment for its esthetical and scientific importance. Trees also play an important role in rural and urban areas for the production of firewood, bark, medicine and ornaments, thereby enhancing the general quality of life.

Seen against this background, it is obvious that special knowledge, skills and management expertise are required for sustainable agricultural and forestry production. Our wide range of teaching programmes covers, therefore, all aspects of natural resource management, plant and animal production, post-harvest operations and economic management, from the basic science, through to the practical and economic aspects of the respective value chains of agriculture and of forestry.

Graduates in agriculture and forestry can follow a variety of careers in plant or animal production, conservation, processing and marketing. There are, for example, careers in research, teaching, consultation, information dissemination, farm management, Wood

environ­ment management and industrial plant management (cellars, food factories and sawmills). Professions and careers such as these are not only practised in agricultural and forestry companies, but also in associated industries, commercial enterprises and government departments. Agrisciences graduates of this University enjoy high regard in the inter­national labour market.​​

Departmental Foci


Scientific work at the Department of Forest and Wood Science is characterized by a healthy blend of basic and applied research aspects. Based on this principle, the department has defined four overarching research fields that not only reflect our vision concerning the main questions to be answered by Forest and Wood Science in the coming years, but also show our ability to address the value-added chain of wood, paper and biomass production from the beginning to the end. To tackle these relevant topics we joined forces in the department to cover the necessary bandwidth of expertise and will extend our activities in the defined focal research areas in the future.

Precision Forestry

Precision Forestry (PF) provides for additional, adequate quality information about forests and the manufacturing of forest products. It facilitates planning and site-specific forest management activities and operations to improve wood product quality and utilisation, to reduce waste, and increase profits. PF makes use of several key technologies such as GPS/GIS/RS, dealing with automatic data capture, including locating and navigation systems and thus addresses both, the use of geo-spatial-information to assist forest management, planning, and site-specific silvicultural operations. The need for precision forestry is no longer a choice in managing forests and producing forest products. Driven by both the ever increasing scrutiny over the protection of forest resources, and the economic need to use forest products to the fullest, professional foresters and product managers are demanding quality detailed information about forests they manage and products they make.

Integrated Land Use Management Initiative "Green Landscapes"

"Green Landscape Design" is a concept, which spatially integrates different strategies and economic demands within the same region and includes all land use and in this context it plays a cardinal role in Africa. The requirements for forest services are manifold and they are not constant over time. Traditional forest planning is based on principles of constancy and long term stability. In reality, however, periodic reorientation and frequent changes of policy are quite common. It is also understood that not only one, but a variety of treatment options or "management paths" may be potentially suitable for each individual land parcel. Each path is characterized by a succession of specific management activities, unexpected hazards and specific system responses. The ultimate aim is to identify some optimum combination of management paths for the landscape as a whole. The conceptual framework for this research is provided by the Multiple Path Theory which assumes that a landscape is an aggregation of spatially defined land parcels of varying size and shape. This form of adaptive management, provides a suitable basis for designing forested landscapes.

Biomass and Biofuel Production Initiative "Power SA"

The "Power SA" initiative aims at providing all necessary information on biomass and biofuel production in a South African and African context. It covers the value-added chain of production from the plant to the product of biomass and biofuels. This involves a wide range of expertise including remote sensing, inventory, the resource estimation with the help of simulation models, stand management for biomass production in plantations, agro-forests and in extensively managed forests, harvesting and transport, transformation technology and raw material quality considerations, ecologic implications on local and global level as well as socio-economic implications of bio-energy production. The department will focus future research work on the integration of these fields of expertise for a concise management of biomass and biofuel production with the aim to contribute to the optimization of resource use and the mitigation of climate change.

Wood Quality from the Plant to the Product

Wood quality may be the most essential aspect of the value added chain of wood production, but also the one least understood. An optimisation and effective management of the value added chain and its individual links is only possible with a sound knowledge of the factors influencing wood properties during tree growth, harvesting, storage, drying and multiple conversion steps and also the quality determination process itself. This requires a holistic approach that attempts to link the single steps of production to understand their dependencies and identify crucial steps in the conversion chain that can be influenced by management. This includes modeling, simulation and novel methods of wood quality determination and product performance testing with the objective to understand and optimize wood quality throughout the value added chain of wood production.​

Our website:  www.sun.ac.za/english/faculty/agri/forestry


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