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Travel report
IUFRO 2012 – Second international Conference on Biodiversity in Forest Ecosystems and Landscapes
University College Cork, Ireland, 27 August -1 September 2012.
Text by Huaitong Xu

Huaitong XuThe IUFRO 2012- Second International Conference on Biodiversity in Forest Ecosystems and Landscapes was held at University College, Cork, the first university campus in the world to receive the Green Flag Award. It follows the success of the first conference in its series which was held in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada, in 2008. As a result of the great success achieved on this occasion, the Third International Conference on Biodiversity in Forest Ecosystems and Landscapes is scheduled to be held in New Zealand in 2015.

The conference in Cork provided an excellent forum for researchers, practitioners, and students from across the world to discuss the challenges of maintaining and enhancing biodiversity in forests, as well as to confer about emerging trends in the sustainable management of forest ecosystems and landscapes. The event offered nine interestingly themed symposia, in addition to several open sessions. The good presentations covered various aspects of forest biodiversity research. Multi-disciplinarity was also one of the salient features of this conference. Furthermore, since concurrent sessions did not take place at the conference, the participants had the opportunity to enjoy fully all of the interesting presentations. An extraordinary conference dinner, with a traditional Irish band and Ceilí at The Vertigo, of Cork County Hall, awaited all attendees atop the highest building in Cork, Ireland.

Three keynote speakers delivered excellent talks. John O’Halloran, from Ireland, assured his listeners, “Ireland Does Have Forests!!!: the Importance of Highly Managed Forest Fragments in Agricultrual Landscapes”. In the presentation of that title, he gave an overview of the main output of two major projects of biodiversity forest studies in Ireland, pointing out a range of recommendations for sustainable forest management based upon their findings. Hailing from Belgium, Martin Hermy, spoke on “Forest Plant Species Diversity: from a Dark Past to an Uncertain Future”. He briefly reviewed the consequences of prior land use, mainly agricultural, on plant species diversity and composition in deciduous forest. He hinted that many forest species may not be able to extend their range quickly enough because extreme habitat fragmentation often severely hampers necessary northward shifts; due to this, assisted migration therefore could be the solution. John Spence, from Canada, gave his presentation on “Biodiversity Conservation in a Sustainable Forest Management Framework: Speculation, Science, and Experiments”. He referred to biodiversity as a good indicator to assess the ‘health’ of forest ecosystems. He introduced the large scale EMEND (Ecosystem-based Management Emulating Natural Disturbance) experiments being conducted in Alberta as a new approach to forest management.

Forest covers less than 10% of land area in Ireland, wherein exotic tree species constitute almost 90% of what finds upon forested land. This could be noted in the conference´s one-day field trip included mid-way within it, and also in another one-day post-conference tour. A mid-conference field trip included a visit to Derryreag upland conifer plantation, which revealed a recent development in Irish forest biodiversity research for a range of taxonomic groups, as well as a visit to Killarney National Park which UNESCO in 1981 designated as a Biosphere Reserve, covering 10,000 hectars that are home to an array of important plant and animal life native to Ireland, including native Irish Oak and Yew woodlands and native Red Deer, the only herd thereof remaining in Ireland. A contrast in biodiversity variation is present between Irish plantation forests and Ireland’s native woodlands.

The post-conference tour consisted of visits to Blarney Castle, which demonstrates the cultural heritage of Ireland, and to Gougane Barra National Forest Park, which comprises 142 hectares of forest park as well as Gougane Barra Lake. Ice, for the most part, carved out the rock basin in which the lake lies. It is Lodgepole pine, Sitka spruce, Scots pine, and Japanese larch which, between 1938 and 1942, came to provide the arboreal vegetation. This is where one can find Ireland`s finest stands of Sitka spruce, within the valley bottom, a single tree reaching as high as 38 meters and carrying a volume of up to 3 cubic meters.

Two members of the CEF-CFR and the Chair of the AFD attended this conference. Timothy Work gave a very interesting talk on the research in which he collaborated with Suzanne Brais, entitled “Impact of Post-Harvest Biomass Removal on Epigaeic Invertebrates in Jack-Pine Forests of Western Quebec, Canada”. PhD student Huaitong Xu presented part of his doctoral research, entitled “Population Genetic Diversity in Eastern White Cedar towards the Northern :limit of Its Distribution Range”. He also won a student prize, the “Best Poster Award”. Both of the presentations received great attention and inspired, among conference attendees, great interest in Quebec’s boreal forest.

As a student member, expressing myself, I sincerely thank the CEF-CFR for having provided financial support to participate in this event. By attending this IUFRO conference on biodiversity, I have expanded my network through presenting my work and by interacting with others. I also have returned with many ideas and knowledge from interacting with people active in many research projects from diverse disciplines across the world which so complement what I already have known regarding the sustainable management of forest ecosystems. All of this decidedly has given me new ideas for my own research.

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