The 10th Jack Westoby Lecture: Whose woods are these? Rising to the challenge of managing the global forest estate

Jack Westoby, in The Purpose of Forests: Follies of Development, stated: “Forestry is not about trees, it is about people. And it is about trees only insofar as trees can serve the needs of people.” This quote resonates widely across the world and has motivated many people to pursue forestry as a means to support and sustain human welfare. This is a noble goal. But, while focusing on how forests contribute to human needs, do we risk neglecting the health and wellbeing of forests? Who is watching out for the needs of 80% of the world’s terrestrial species that live in forests? Is this the role of the forestry sector? What is the role of the forestry sector in forest landscape restoration? Can we solve pressing global problems based on sectorial management approaches? Or has the time come to deconstruct existing sectorial policies focused on forestry, agriculture, mining, water, and environment and reconstruct our institutions, government ministries, and knowledge bases to effectively manage the global forest estate for the benefit of people and the planet? I will discuss these questions and present a case for the need to develop and adopt cross-sectorial approaches to forest management, conservation, and restoration built on realities of coupled human and natural systems.

About the speaker

Robin Chazdon is Professor Emerita in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at the University of Connecticut and Research Professor with the Tropical Forests and People Centre at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Her long-term and on-going collaborative research focuses on successional pathways, forest dynamics, drivers of land-use change, and functional ecology of trees in Neotropical forests. Robin served as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Biotropica, as President of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, and as a member-atlarge of the governing board of the Ecological Society of America. She currently serves as the Executive Director of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation and Director of the NSF-funded Research Coordination Network PARTNERS (People and Reforestation in the Tropics), focused on understanding the socio-ecological drivers of reforestation in the tropics. After 28 years as a university professor, Dr. Chazdon is moving into the science-policy arena in forest landscape restoration. She recently became a Senior Fellow with the World Resources Institute Global Restoration Initiative, where she is working to enhance decision support tools for landscape restoration and promote natural regeneration in restoration planning. She is an author of over 170 peer-reviewed scientific articles and co-editor of two books on tropical forests. Her sole-authored book “Second growth: The promise of tropical forest regeneration in an age of deforestation” was published in 2014.