EXCELLENTIA project will create a centre for forest ecosystem research at FFWT MENDELU

28. 4. 2023

The Faculty of Forestry and Wood Technology MENDELU has signed a grant agreement with the Research Executive Agency of the European Commission for the EXCELLENTIA project financed by the Horizon Europe Programme. The prestigious five-year project “ERA-Chair: Striving for Excellence in the Forest Ecosystem Research” (EXCELLENTIA) will start in May. The goal is to create a cutting-edge interdisciplinary research group engaged in forest ecosystem research under the leadership of Professor Douglas L. Godbold. The team will study climate-diversity-pathogen interations in Central European forests. The research will concentrate on the University Forest Enterprise Masaryk Forest Křtiny (UFE).

The multidisciplinary team will use a unique range of stands of differing tree diversity and silivicultural approach, to study how tree diversity interacts with soils, symbiotic fungi and root pathogens in a changing climate. The work has the ultimate goal to estimate how different silicultural approaches contribute to ecosystem stability, to meet both ecological and sociological needs in future forests. Drought, the fact that different species of trees react differently to water shortage, and the susceptibility or resistance of tree root systems to pathogen attack are other questions that scientists will cover in the EXCELLENTIA. Spearheaded by of Prof Godbold the project will attempt to connect important European and international initiatives and projects, building a focal point for forest ecosystem research in the Czech Republic. UFE is a long-standing university research facility providing a unique background through diverse subsoil and tree composition. In addition, continuous measurement of tree growth has been taking place on various research plots established since 1973. Scientists thus have a unique data set at their disposal.

“EXCELLENTIA should bring new insights to the climate-endangered Central Europe forest ecosystems and society needs. Furthermore, it aims to clarify men’s contribution to instability by moving from continuous forestry cover to monocultures. EXCELLENTIA will be built on the existing data and the ongoing research programme at FFWT,” says Prof Libor Jankovský. The project builds on the ASFORCLIC project funded by the Horizon 2020 programme and other projects, such as Phytophthora Research Center funded by the Operational Program Research, Development and Education.

“Besides the scientific line, the EXCELLENTIA project aims to implement structural changes in sustainable research and innovation, intellectual property and research data management and career counselling. The plan includes, among other things, online training focused on scientific ethics and scientists’ skills to present the results of their work. Furthermore, the EXCELLENTIA project will closely cooperate with the MENDELU Central Library Services in the field of open science,” adds Pavlína Pancová Šimková. The results will be continuously introduced to various stakeholders, including the Researchers` Night. The project also envisages cooperation at the level of secondary schools within the framework of the Biology Olympiads.

The research team of the EXCELLENTIA project will have the same status as other institutes at the FFWT MENDELU. Prof. Libor Jankovský, head of the Department of Forest Protection and Wildlife Management and dean of FFWT MENDELU, coordinates EXCELLENTIA. The “ERA-Chair: Striving for Excellence in the Forest Ecosystem Research” will be implemented from 1/5/2023 to 30/4/2028. It is the project with the most significant financial contribution to MENDELU, which it has received from all EU framework programmes.

Prof. Douglas L. Godbold has nearly 30 years of experience researching plant-soil interactions in forest ecosystems. He has focused mainly on the belowground process in forest ecosystems, including fine roots, mycorrhizas and carbon dynamics. Prof Godbold has worked in both boreal and temperate forest as well as dry tropical forests of Ethiopia. He has considerable experience in use of ecosystem manipulation experiments for factors such as elevated atmospheric CO2, drought and tree diversity. This has allowed him to gain extensive experience in project management at the national and international levels.

Contact persons for more information: prof. Dr. Ing. Libor Jankovský, head of the Department of Forest Protection and Wildlife Management FFWT MENDELU, +420 739 341 961, libor.jankovsky@mendelu.cz; Ing. Pavlína Pancová Šimková, Ph.D., Department of Forest Protection and Wildlife Management FFWT MENDELU, +420 545 134 065, pavlina.simkova@mendelu.cz

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