UBC Forestry professor receives ‘Nobel Prize of Forest Research’

April 29, 2020

By: The Working Forest Staff

The Faculty of Forestry at UBC has announced faculty member and Canada Research Chair in Remote Sensing (I), Nicholas Coops, is the recipient of the world’s most prestigious forestry honour, the Marcus Wallenberg Prize. With this distinction, UBC is the top-ranking institution on the globe in terms the highest number of prizes received in the 40-year history of the Marcus Wallenberg Prize, and Canada is now tied with Sweden as the top two nations with the most prize winners.  

Known as “the Nobel Prize of the forest sector,” Coops shares this year’s prize with colleagues Richard Waring of Oregon State University and Joseph Landsberg of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Australia. The 2020 prize was awarded in recognition for their work in addressing one of the largest global challenges of our time. 

The 3-PG (Physiological Principles Predicting Growth) model developed by Landsberg and Waring predicts forest growth and the ability of forests to store carbon. With Coops’ work on satellite imagery, it is now possible to make these predictions on a much larger scale. Together, their research may be used to understand forests’ response to climate change such as global warming, insect infestations and forest fires. 

“One of the most exciting things about the honour of receiving the Marcus Wallenberg Prize is how it will inevitably further elevate the utilization of the 3-PG model,” notes Coops. “The 3-PG model is an open-source model, available from UBC, and can be easily used and accessed by graduate students and industry alike. Combining it with analyses from satellite images from space means that today, we can better answer questions such as the trends in the future growth of key forest species such as the Douglas fir in British Columbia.”

“3-PG is one of the world’s most widely used model for assessing forest growth. Before satellite imaging, it was applicable to forest plots. Now it can be used to make predictions on a global scale,” says MWP selection committee member, Daniel Binkley. “It is a truly groundbreaking technology that can be used for so many different applications that include some of the most challenging issues of our time – namely climate change and its impact on Mother Earth.”

“The Marcus Wallenberg Prize is the most significant prize devoted to the forest sector, and what all forest researchers aspire to win, so I am absolutely delighted that a researcher at UBC is once again a winner,” remarked John Innes, dean of the faculty of forestry who, himself, was part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) team that shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore for its work on climate change. “This research has the potential to revolutionize how we manage our vast forests and the hugely significant role they play in mitigating climate change.”  

“The Canadian forestry sector continues to be a global leader in innovation,” says The Honourable Seamus O’Regan, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources. “My sincere congratulations to Dr Nicholas Coops for this well-deserved recognition.”

The prize will be awarded to Coops, Waring and Landsberg by King Carl Gustaf XVI of Sweden in a ceremony set for October of this year. 

To learn more about 3PG, visit: https://3pg.forestry.ubc.ca/software/

To learn more about the UBC Faculty of Forestry, visit:  https://forestry.ubc.ca/

 

At A Glance: The Marcus Wallenberg Prize

  • The Marcus Wallenberg Prize is ranked as the world’s highest recognition for excellence within the field of forest industry research.
  • Considered to be the Nobel Prize of forestry, the Marcus Wallenberg prize is presented to the winners by King Carl Gustaf XVI of Sweden.
  • Plans for the 2020 Marcus Wallenberg Prize award ceremony in Stockholm are set for October 2020.
  • 2020 marks the 40th anniversary of the Marcus Wallenberg Prize, which was founded in 1980 and is now awarded for the 37th time since 1981.
  • The Prize recognizes ground-breaking scientific achievements that significantly contribute to technical development and broadening knowledge in fields important to forestry and forest industry.

UBC and Canada are Notable Winners of the Prize

  • UBC has had more faculty affiliated researchers receive the Marcus Wallenberg Prizes than another institution in the world.
  • Sweden, Finland, and Canada are the countries with the most awards ever received (10, 8, and 7 respectively).
  • Coops is the 9th Canadian to be recognized.
  • The last Canadian to win was in 2013 when Dr. Derek Gray was recognized for his pioneering work in developing nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC). Among its’ many applications, NCC can produce optical properties like the iridescent wing sheaths of a beetle.

The Winning Research behind the 2020 Award

  • 2020 MWP Prize winners: Nicholas C Coops of the Faculty of Forestry at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Dr. Joseph J Landsberg, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Dr. Richard H Waring, Oregon State University (OSU).
  • These three researchers share the Prize for their work on a computer simulation model that predicts forest growth and carbon storage (Landsberg and Waring). With satellite imagery, the predictions can be applied to large scales (Coops). 
  • 3-PG, which stands for Physiological Processes Predicting Growth, is the name of the forest growth model designed by Landsberg and Waring.
  • The implications of this research are far-reaching – especially as we strive to address the monumental challenges associated with climate change. The research could help with understanding forests’ response to climate change, including global warming, forest fires, and insect and disease outbreaks.
  • Coops is a Professor at the Faculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada, where he holds a Canada Research Chair in remote sensing. His research has focused on the use of remote sensing techniques to gain an in‐depth knowledge of forest structure, health, biological function and diversity as well as further development and application of the 3-PG model globally. He has published more than 460 scientific articles in joint authorship in scientific journals.

What Makes this Technology Unique?

  • UBC hosts the 3-PG technology which is open-sourced so freely available to anyone who may want to use it.
  • Due to its flexible design and ease-of-use, it is the most widely used forest growth model in the world.
  • Anyone who wants to use it in their work can access it here: https://3pg.forestry.ubc.ca/

Applications in Canada

  • In BC, it is being used to predict the future growth of key species such as Douglas fir.
  • In the BC Interior, it is being used to look at poplar and how the species might be able to fuel bioenergy plants.
  • In Eastern Canada 3-PG is being used to understand how forests are being impacted by drought and fire.
  • Across Canada, researchers are using it to examine how some species will move across the landscape over time associated with climate change.

 

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