Core research areas and staffing – Københavns Universitet

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Core research areas and staffing

Dresden (Department of Forestry, University of Technology)
Tropical forestry

The majority of tropical forest systems is under siege from worldwide transformations such as extensive harvesting and population increase, and both scientific and political forums recently were and still are urging the various trans-national institutions to act in terms of conservation, rehabilitation and management of such threatened ecosystems. However, nature conservation policies are in need of new academic and professional profiles with interdisciplinary backgrounds and capable of holistic approaches, which is not the usual background knowledge of university graduates. In order to build such profiles, we deliver a trans-disciplinary programme to PhD students in international research projects focusing on (i) physical foundations of production including forest formations, eco-zonation, and biomass production; (ii) the socio-economic characterisation of forest and agroforestry management systems including their ecological implications; (iii) model development of forest management projects; and (iv) the analysis of global and regional trade cycles with wood and other forest products including certification. The programme trains young researchers in identified gaps of interpersonal and management skills in order to increase their employability in the industrial sector of globally acting enterprises focusing on the management and conservation of natural resources.

Forest policy
Research mainly focuses on (i) the identification of forestry-related and eco-political driving forces and regulators acting at multi-level systems; (ii) the development of informal tools including monitoring, assessment, and reporting approaches being suitable towards a best practice policy; (iii) towards a diversification of forest dominated landscapes and their social and economic importance. Relevant issues of forest policy as well as general aspects of environmental policy are considered at both national and sub-national levels including forest organisation and reforms of organisations, as well as in European and non-European circumstances. Thus, this research direction is also a valuable supplement of the research projects conducted in the field of tropical forestry mentioned above.

Silviculture and forest protection
During last decades, the focus of silviculture and forest management has been transforming from exclusively economic-oriented forms towards more natural-oriented measures. Considering this promising and future oriented framework, research focus is on (i) the conversion of mono-specific forest stands to mixed stands; (ii) the application and assessment of regeneration measures; (iii) the analyses of key processes behind complex forest structures and dynamics of forest ecosystems; (iv) the conversion of forest stands endangered by pollutant emissions; and (v) reforestation of sites damaged by pollutant emissions and of mining areas. The research techniques applied in the projects will form an ecological know-how at organic, community and ecosystem level that the Early-Stage-Researchers will easily transfer to other European and (sub)tropical ecosystems.

Systems analysis
Research projects investigate the dynamics of complex ecological systems by means of simulation models. That way, empirical knowledge obtained in different scientific disciplines is synthesised, and hypotheses are elaborated about interactions between organisms and their environment, and the consequences of these interactions at different hierarchical levels of ecological systems. Main focus is on (i) the development of generic modelling approaches being suitable to describe local interactions among individuals (plants and animals), (ii) the emergence and the dynamics of spatio-temporal patterns in ecological systems, and (iii) on the impact of the use of natural resources on the survival of populations. Simulation experiments provide the scientific basis to forecast consequences of environmental changes on ecosystem functioning and services in order to assist decision-making for management and conservation. Regional focus is on (sub)tropical areas particularly on rain forests and mangrove forests. The Early-Stage-Researchers will build up an international reputation by contributing to major advances in scientific knowledge and a sound foundation in interdisciplinary research techniques through problem-oriented training activities, cutting edge methods, and modelling techniques for analysing spatio-temporal data; and developing tools for an effective assessment and forecast of effects of environmental changes on different kind of forest systems.

Soils, climate and water
Research covers water and nutrient dynamics of terrestrial ecosystems (focus on forests) and watersheds including modelling. Monitoring strategies and field experiments are combined with model-based assessment approaches. Ecosystem services such as flood protection, erosion control or drinking water quality are defined based on the analysis of the structure and biogeochemical functioning of ecosystem components. Furthermore, land-use and climate change have become crucial as controlling factors in process studies and the development of management scenarios. PhD research is closely linked to international programs of the Dresden Water Center (DKW) focusing e.g. on integrated watershed management.

Relevant staffing:
(i) Tropical forestry and forest policy: Two full professors, two associate professors/senior researchers, nine doctoral candidates.
(ii) Silviculture, systems analysis, soil-climate-water research: Three full professors, five associate professors/senior researchers, eleven doctoral candidates.