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UniSC awarded $24 million to lead new forestry research centre

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A Queensland-based research collaboration, led by the University of the Sunshine Coast, has been selected to play a key role in advancing research and innovation in Australia’s forests, through a new national institute.

The University of the Sunshine Coast will receive more than $24 million to establish one of three new regional centres that will support Australian Forest and Wood Innovations (AFWI), a research and development institute established by the federal government.

AFWI will be hosted by the University of Tasmania, with two other research centres at the University of Melbourne and the Forest Research Institute, led by UniSC at its Sunshine Coast campus.

UniSC Professor Mark Brown said the successful bid by the Forest Research Institute to be part of AFWI would allow it to extend its leadership, skills and expertise in this space.

The Forest Research Institute is a collaboration between eight Queensland and New South Wales universities, and three state government agencies from Queensland, New South Wales and the Northern Territory.

It has active partnerships with industries across regional Australia and research sites across tropical and subtropical forests and plantations.

“We look forward to working with the other AWFI regional research centres to make the national institute a success and welcome the strong innovation and collaboration that we will be able to facilitate across the sector,” said Professor Brown, who will head the new centre at UniSC.

The Sunshine Coast was one of three locations chosen for the forestry project. Picture: Sunshine Coast Council

Professor Brown said the planned key focus areas for the Queensland-based centre would be to sustain, manage and rehabilitate Australia’s forests and find innovative solutions for the forest and wood products industry.

“This includes growing more trees sustainably in forestry areas and developing innovative timber products using carbon-friendly building systems,” he said.

Much of the research will apply First Nations knowledge and expertise on current and future sustainable land management challenges.

“Invasive weeds, pests, diseases, extreme weather and climate change are some of the issues for Australia’s diverse forest ecosystems that impact the important role they play in storing carbon, protecting soil and water and providing wood products,” he said.

“With increasing need to get sustainable multi-use outcomes from forest and land management, effectively engaging the wealth of Indigenous knowledge and skills through the AFWI investment will be critical to get the best social, environmental, and economic impacts for the sector into the future.”

Do you have an opinion to share? Submit a Letter to the Editor at Sunshine Coast News via news@sunshinecoastnews.com.au. You must include your name and suburb.

Potential projects include new and innovative ways to incorporate timber production with other land uses, with a particular emphasis on agriculture, grazing, water management and mine site rehabilitation.

Strategies to increase carbon storage, restoring degraded land, tree breeding and genetics, fire management and mitigation, as well as management of forest health, pests and disease in a changing climate are other likely research areas.

UniSC Vice-Chancellor and president Professor Helen Bartlett, welcomed UniSC’s recognition as a leader in forestry research and collaboration through its selection to play a key role in AWFI.

“This is an important initiative by the federal government for the future of Australia’s forests,” she said.

“The aims of AFWI align with one of UniSC’s highest priorities – ensuring the sustainability of our natural world, with a focus on balancing environment and economic outcomes through forestry research that drives knowledge and impact.”

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