Special Reports

Seeing the wood for the trees

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The Centre for Tree Health Biotechnology is hosted by the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute at the University of Pretoria.

All eyes on the ground:  Insects and diseases that kill trees are minute, yet they can cause terrible devastation. (CTHB)

The CTHB is structured as a virtual centre of excellence that conducts research through a countrywide network of scientists, with the node of the network represented by researchers at the University of Pretoria.

Over the last eight years, the CTHB has established a niche in South Africa's science system to promote the health of trees in natural woody ecosystems, particularly through applying a range of biotechnology tools.

Since its inception, the CTHB team has produced 40 MSc and 31 PhD graduates and has published more than 300 scientific articles in international journals.

CTHB projects typically consider damage caused by microbial pathogens and insect pests to native trees and other woody plants.

Its research also explores the possible effects that factors such as climate change, bark harvesting, fire and plant genetics can have on the health of native woody resources and ecosystems.

Its overall vision is closely aligned with the national strategic priorities identified in the government's medium term strategic framework. For example, its research focus on the health of native trees helps to solve challenges involving sustainable livelihoods and resource management.

Also, its strong network of African collaborators contributes meaningfully to the national priority of ensuring economic and environmental sustainability in Africa.

Its broad and multidisciplinary research focus means it is ideally placed to contribute to the national challenges involving human resource development.

This is achieved not only through research-based postgraduate education and training but also through mentorship and outreach initiatives at undergraduate and pre-tertiary levels.

The CTHB is well positioned to render services to stakeholders in government, industry and civil society. The knowledge produced by the CTHB has had numerous spinoffs in terms of tree health diagnostics and surveillance.

Its research outputs are thus crucial to promote an understanding of the risks associated with existing and emerging tree health problems. These are, in turn, actively used to develop initiatives and legislation to safeguard South African trees and other woody plants from the ravages of disease.

For more information visit www.fabinet.up.ac.za/research/cthb or contact Professor Emma Steenkamp [email protected] or Jenny Hale [email protected]

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