EFIPLANT visits Malawi amid alarming forest fire risks in southern Africa

In September Barry Gardiner- Senior Scientist at the EFI Planted Forest Facility -visited the offices of the Forest Research Institute of Malawi (FRIM) based in Zomba to present a seminar to staff on “Global Change and Abiotic Risk Trends in the EU” which focused on the threats to forestry in Europe with a changing climate and also discussed the development of the European Forest Risk Facility within EFI.

Barry –who was welcomed to the Institute by Dr. Tembo Chanyenga (Figure 1) - gave a short introduction to the European Forest Institute with a particular emphasis on the FLEGT and REDD programs and their connection with forestry in the tropics. The material for this presentation was kindly provided by Yitagesu Tekle from EFI Barcelona.

The talks were followed by a round-table discussion about issues affecting forestry in Malawi and the research focus of the Forest Research Institute of Malawi. There is expertise across all area of forest science at FRIM from tree breeding and mensuration to forest pathology and entomology. However, the issue causing most concern was the risk of fires within both native forests and plantations. Such fires are usually anthropogenic in origin and cause high levels of damage and loss of timber, revenue, and other ecosystem services. Not only can such fires lead to a potential loss of foreign investment to Malawi for the creation of plantation forests (in particular eucalyptus sp.) but it is a serious concern for the indigenous miombo woodlands that are found across southern Africa in Angola, southern Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique. Miombo woodlands are extremely important for their biodiversity and as a source of wood, fuel, and food for local people but they are badly affected by fires across the whole region (Ryan et al., 2016; Tarimo et al., 2015).

Fire control and monitoring is a particular issue within the European Forest Risk Facility and the SURE project. Alex Held from EFI Bonn Office has provided colleagues at FRIM with details of a number of tools (e.g. mobile phone apps) that are available and background information on forest fires from an African perspective. The EFI team is currently exploring possibilities for a joint project on fire management and monitoring in southern Africa with colleagues at FRIM and investigating different funding possibilities.


FRIM Visit
Figure 1: Barry Gardiner, Dr. Tembo Chanyenga (to Barry’s right) and D. Chanyenga’s colleagues from FRIM



Ryan, C.M., Pritchard, R., McNicol, I., Owen, M., Fisher, J.A., Lehmann, C., 2016. Ecosystem services from southern African woodlands and their future under global change. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B. Biol. Sci. 371, 20150312. doi:10.1098/rstb.2015.0312

Tarimo, B., Dick, Ø.B., Gobakken, T., Totland, Ø., 2015. Spatial distribution of temporal dynamics in anthropogenic fires in miombo savanna woodlands of Tanzania. Carbon Balance Manag. 10. doi:10.1186/s13021-015-0029-2