Viikki Tropical Resources Institute, operating within the University of Helsinki, studies the sustainable exploitation of tropical forests and other natural resources. The aims of Western and developing countries don’t always meet, so making reasonable decisions requires interdisciplinary expertise.
What does the future hold for tropical forests? Photo: Greenpeace Esperanza / Flickr.com (Creative Commons).
Last week the University of Helsinki hosted an international conference, Reframing Sustainability? Climate Change and North-South Dynamics, during which contested views on climate change in Northern and Southern hemispheres were discussed from many viewpoints. One viewpoint was that of the native people.
“When the ravaging of tropical forests is discussed, for example, the people cannot be left out. When it comes to forests, the motives of indigenous peoples and multinational companies are very different. So, there is a need for more than just ecology and biology, if we want to develop the sustainable use of tropical resources,” says one of the keynote speakers of the congress, the recently appointed professor of tropical silviculture Markku Kanninen from the University of Helsinki.
Kanninen has been involved in the launch of several national and international interdisciplinary research programs on climate change and tropical forests.
“It is important that the students get a broad view on the relationship between forests and community. The experts working in developing countries have to commit themselves on various issues. In addition to wood, the forests provide ecosystem services and recreation. Thus controversies and conflicts related to forests and their use are common,” Kanninen clarifies.
Kanninen got interested in ecology, environmental issues, and the tropic already as a schoolboy. Now, he is interested in studying climate change from the perspective of adjustment. “It is interesting how ecosystems can help us to adjust to climate change. For example, how forests can ensure the supply of drinking water,” Kanninen says.
The study programmes within the Department of Forest Sciences and Viikki Tropical Resources Institute are being renewed at the moment. After the changes, the entwined questions if climate change and tropical forests will form a new interesting entity.
“One interesting and important goal is the increase of education export – there is a vast demand for education on climate change and sustainable use of natural resources in developing countries,” Kanninen says.