About Tropical Forests and People Research Centre - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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About Tropical Forests and People Research Centre

Around the world forests are central to the lives of billions of people.

Close to 1.6 billion people – more than 25 percent of the world's population – rely on forest resources for their livelihoods, and at least 1.2 billion use trees on farms to generate food and cash. In addition, many developing countries use forest fuelwood for up to 90 percent of their energy requirements and in many of these regions forests perform a range of economic, ecological, cultural and social functions which are critical to the health of the planet and its inhabitants. (FAO 2015)

Our vision

To help forest-dependent people to make better use of their forest resources to improve livelihoods and the environment.

Our focus

The Centre is based around collaborative, multidisciplinary projects that bring together researchers interested in the interactions between people and tropical forests. Our research focuses on real-world problems in community and smallholder forestry: ‘people-focused’ systems in which individuals and communities create and manage forests for a mix of economic, social and environmental reasons. In partnership with government and the private sector, we use the results of our research to develop evidence-based policy, and to design and implement ‘people focused’ reforestation systems.

Our geographic focus is in tropical and subtropical regions, mostly in the Asia–Pacific region. These forest areas are critical for livelihoods of many millions of people and provide critical environmental goods and services such as water, carbon storage and biodiversity.

Established in 2014, the Tropical Forests and People Research Centre complements the Forest Industries Research Centre (FIRC), which focuses on large-scale plantation estates owned by corporations and governments.

Our research

Our Tropical Forests and People Research Centre have developed an international track record for research on community and smallholder forestry in the tropics and a growing expertise in: understanding and managing secondary tropical forests; K'gari-Fraser Island forest dynamics and Indigenous forestry. We respond to the challenges in these areas through an interdisciplinary and integrated programme of understanding processes of change; understanding forestry problems; developing evidence based policy; exploring forestry systems; and influencing change through education and partnership.

Our research approach

  • Integrated social-economic-biophysical-policy research (inter/trans disciplinary approaches)
  • Most work is within a ‘systems’ framework using various soft and hard systems approaches in research planning, implementation and policy development and advocacy
Our broader skills

Our members include social and biophysical scientists with expertise in forest restoration and rehabilitation, ecology, forest science, silviculture, hydrology, soil science, anthropology, livelihood systems, economics, supply chains, finance and policy.

Our members also have substantial industry experience including:

  • Current non-executive directorships on forestry companies with forest assets in excess of US$2 billion, and extensive experience with strategic management of workplace safety in high risk environments
  • Executive directorship of Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation
  • Managing and implementing international REDD+ programs worth A$70 million
  • Designing and implementing community-based reforestation programs in developing countries, including as part of mining operations and national reforestation programs
  • Current senior roles on international committees including: Technical Advisor for United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)/Forest Ecosystem Restoration Initiative (FERI) Program; Executive Director, Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation; member of the International Advisory Committee, FOREFRONT Program; member of the scientific committee for Forests and Livelihoods: Assessment, Research and Engagement (FLARE), International Forestry Resources and Institutions (IFRI); and member of the Scientific Advisory committee for WeForests.
  • Past senior roles in international organisations such as the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the Centre for People and Forests (RECOFTC), the International Union of Forest Research Organisations (IUFRO), and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • Design of forest policy initiatives for national and local governments, and senior advisory services to governments and the private sector

Through these roles, our team understands the challenges that government agencies and the private sector faces in dealing with the complex socio-economic, political and biophysical aspects of forest management in the tropics.

Join us

Opportunities to study or research across our tropical forestry projects.