Following his appointment as chairman of ProPopulus, Professor Joris Van Acker has outlined his action plan for the association over the next years. One of the main focuses of this plan is continuing with ProPopulus branding project improving its web site, with new and better contents and features.
Another main subject in Professor Van Acker’s plan is expanding the association’s network. One way, he says, could be “by including extra members” since, at the moment, founding organisations in 5 countries have been involved, and Ghent University (UGent) is the only member with an academic and research background. Thus, Professor Van Acker’s idea is to promote interaction with existing networks such as IPC (International Commission on Poplars and Other Fast-Growing Trees Sustaining People and the Environment) of FAO (http://www.fao.org/forestry/ipc/en/) and IUFRO (International Union of Forest Research Organizations).
Professor Van Acker, who is currently chair of IPC’s working party on Sustainable Livelihoods, Land-use, Products and Bioenergy, advances that “The IPC will hold its twenty-sixth Session in Rome, Italy at FAO on 8-9 October 2020, preceded by three days of dedicated scientific and technical discussions (October 5-7). The theme for this Session is ‘The role of Salicaceae and other fast-growing trees in sustainable wood supplies and climate change mitigation’. An important topic in this Session will be the IPC reform, as the Commission seeks pathways to apply the successful approaches and networks developed by the IPC to new species and in new geographies”.
Also, he comments that, alongside with IPC, there is the IUFRO (International Union of Forest Research Organizations), a non-profit, non-governmental international network of forest scientists, that promotes global cooperation in forest-related research and seeks to enhance the understanding of the ecological, economic and social aspects of forests and trees. Within IUFRO, he explains, there is also a working party dedicated specifically to poplar (where Professor Van Acker currently acts as deputy).
The new chairman of ProPopulus indicates out that as the key objective of the association is to create a sustainable and viable framework for a continued and even increased supply of poplar wood in Europe, thus, “it is important to enhance not only the visibility but also to increase the impact of the organisation specially at an EU level”. For this, besides individual lobbying, he believes impact at EU level can be increased by being successful with an EU-project proposal. The fact that the proposal POPTECH, coordinated by ProPopulus member UGent, was shortlisted on the reserve list indicates that there is potential for this option.
The fourth issuec in Professor Van Acker’s plan is showcasing the use of poplar as a resource in innovation thus to support the poplar forestry wood chain. There is a lot of interest in the bio-economy and interactions with green economy and circular economy. There is growing need for better communicating and informing of European and international networks working on poplar transformation and supporting research and development activities is important. “This is a key aspect for interaction between industry and research members of the ProPopulus organisation. Specific interactions with countries like Canada, USA, Argentina, Chile but definitely also China are key to consolidate good interaction between stakeholders”, sustains Professor Van Acker.
Finally, ProPopulus new chairman comments that within the framework of ProPopulus there has been discussion over several topics related to the possibilities to mitigate climate change. Nevertheless, none of the topics approached in ProPopulus challenge is a solution by itself. “All these topics are interacting, making no one solution for climate change without impact on other very relevant objectives for our future”. For Professor Van Acker increasing planted forests and particularly poplar plantations in Europe can be part of this.
But there are obstacles in the way. “At this moment the main hurdle is the fact that poplar cultivation is on the borderline between forestry and agriculture and related policies. EU’s common agricultural policy (CAP) is a partnership between agriculture and society existing since 1962”, he explains and concludes saying: “The EU Forestry Strategy adopted in 1998 puts forward as its overall principles the application of sustainable forest management and the multifunctional role of forests. There is a need to increase interaction between both, not only dealing with the potential of planted forest to mitigate climate change on arable land, but also to increase the use of different production systems like agroforestry allowing for extra flexibility in achieving multiple objectives”.