31 May 2017

Inaugural lecture of Professor Jaboury Ghazoul on 12 June

“Not all forest restoration is based on best practice, and I want to change that”

Jaboury Ghazoul
Professor Jaboury Ghazoul, Prince Bernhard Chair for International Nature Conservation

Jaboury Ghazoul, Professor of Ecosystem Management from ETH Zürich, has been appointed as the Prince Bernhard Chair for International Nature Conservation at Utrecht University, where he will research best practices in forest restoration. “There’s a lot of restoration going on around the world, but it’s running ahead of restoration knowledge. Not all restoration action is currently based on best practice, and I want to change that.” On 12 June, Ghazoul will give his inaugural lecture in the University Hall. Before the inaugural lecture, there is a seminar on nature conservation, where Prince Constantijn will be present.

“Across the world, many countries are now going through a forest transition,” Ghazoul explains. “In the past, although we’ve lost a lot of forests for many different reasons, many of these forests are now recoveringd. That’s happening in many different ways: some places were abandoned and are reverting naturally to forest. Others are being actively restored by governmental or non-governmental organisations. We’re seeing these developments in Europe and North America, but also in many tropical countries. In Sabah, Malaysia, for example, partnerships between government, business, and researchers are underway to restore formerly logged and degraded forests, and this will bring benefits for both climate and biodiversity.”

World Wide Fund for Nature

Since its establishment in 1987, the Prince Bernhard Chair has been co-financed by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). According to WWF, the Prince Bernhard Chair has been playing a crucial role in connecting science and practice of international nature conservation for 30 years. WWF Director Kirsten Schuijt: “The research of the current chair holder, Professor Jaboury Ghazoul, seamlessly connects to the challenges that WWF faces in countries like Indonesia, where more and more habitats of orangutans give way to plantations. WWF's new strategy holds a much larger emphasis on the so-called landscape approach. We are looking forward to the results of Ghazoul’s comprehensive study.”Since its establishment in 1987, the Prince Bernhard Chair has been co-financed by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). According to WWF, the Prince Bernhard Chair has been playing a crucial role in connecting science and practice of international nature conservation for 30 years. WWF Director Kirsten Schuijt: “The research of the current chair holder, Professor Jaboury Ghazoul, seamlessly connects to the challenges that WWF faces in countries like Indonesia, where more and more habitats of orangutans give way to plantations. WWF's new strategy holds a much larger emphasis on the so-called integrated landscape approach. We are looking forward to the results of Ghazoul’s comprehensive research.”

We know how to restore the forest on relatively small patches of land. The challenge is scaling up to a scale where many stakeholders are in play

Large areas of land

Ghazoul’s main goal during his appointment as Prince Bernhard Chair is to develop best practices to manage reforestation more effectively. “There is a lot of forest restoration going on, which to a reasonable extent has been successful. We know how to restore the forest on relatively small patches of land. The challenge is scaling up to a scale where many stakeholders are in play.” Ghazoul mentions global forest restoration challenges that cover very large areas of land, like the Bonn Challenge, which aims to restore 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded lands by 2020, and the New York Declaration on Forests, which has the even more ambitious target of 350 million hectares by 2030.

Field work

Since his appointment in 2015, Ghazoul’s first steps have been to evaluate existing field projects to gather knowledge about completed and ongoing restoration projects in Europe, North America and the tropics. “So far we’ve done a lot of theoretical background work, to provide a conceptual foundation for the more practical work that’s expected in the next few years.” After recruiting a Postdoc and one or more PhD candidates, Ghazoul also plans to do field work to test his hypotheses for what might be best practices. “The plans aren’t final yet. We could go to the tropics, where I have lots of experience. Another interesting option is to study forest restoration in Scotland, where dozens of projects are going on with many different types of ownerships.”

Scientific research brings answers, but at the same time it tends to bring up even more questions

The role of science

Ghazoul will also specifically look at the role of scientific research in restoration practice. “Scientific research brings answers, but at the same time it tends to bring up even more questions. So while it may sound contradictory, the more science you introduce, the more confusing and difficult things get. I’m curious to see how that affects the outcome, and if we can find a way to minimise that confusion.”

Jaboury Ghazoul

Jaboury Ghazoul (1967) graduated in Marine and Environmental Biology at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. He took his PhD in Evolutionary Ecology at the same university. After a year of working in Vietnam as scientific coordinator for Environmental Exploration, and a three year postdoc with CIFOR and the Natural History Museum in London, he got a position as lecturer and later senior lecturer at the Imperial College London. In 2005 he was appointed Professor of Ecosystem Management at the ETH Zürich. He was Editor-in-Chief of the journal Biotropica from 2006 to 2013, and President of the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation in 2015.

Prince Bernhard Chair

Prince Bernhard Chair

The Prince Bernhard Chair for International Nature Conservation is a special chair embedded within the Ecology & Biodiversity research group of Utrecht University. It was founded in 1987 at the occasion of the 75th anniversary of His Royal Highness Prince Bernhard (1911-2004) in honour of his crucial role in international nature conservation. Prince Bernhard was founder and first president of WWF (World Wildlife Fund) and initiated the Peace Park Foundation. In the Netherlands, the Prince was President of the Dutch WWF for over 30 years. Until his death in 2004, Prince Bernhard was closely involved with the activities of his Chair at Utrecht University.

Linking conservation science and practice

The Chair has since its establishment strongly contributed to linking conservation science and practice. It has done so by (1) training Dutch and international students (BSc, MSc and PhD) in international aspects of nature conservation, (2) driving science-based international conservation efforts, and (3) raising awareness of pressing conservation issues. Prince Bernhard Chair holders are internationally renowned researchers working at the interface of science and conservation. Former chair holders are Norman Meyers (1987-1992), Jeffrey Sayer (1994-2003), Jack Putz (2004-2009) and Bill Laurance (2010-2014). Chair holders serve for a term of five years (0,2 fte) during which they visit Utrecht University for at least one month per year, often distributed over several visits.

Contact and press requests

Nieske Vergunst, press officer Faculty of Science, +31 6 2490 2801 or N.L.Vergunst@uu.nl.
Press communications Utrecht University, +31 30 253 9300 or news@uu.nl.

Because of Prince Constantijn's presence, the seminar is open to press only after accreditation. You can submit a press application by e-mail to Maarten Post, stating your name, medium and function, before Thursday, 8 June, 12:00 noon. In case of great interest, there may be a limited number of admissions. You will receive a notification of your accreditation by Friday, 9 June.

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