INTERVIEW: “Our role is to foster co-existence with forests”, Aurel Lozan

In 2008 Aurel Lozan joined the IUCN’s Commission on Ecosystem Management (CEM). Since 2009 he has worked with IUCN in the ENPI FLEG Program as National Coordinator and Country Communication Coordinator for Moldova. In this interview he talks about his career, his views and his experience in forestry issues. 

Aurel Lozan (left) in the field

Why did you choose to devote your career to forests?

I have always spent a lot of time in nature. The region I grew up in is rich in riverbank forests, rocky with canyon-shape landscapes, covered by forest vegetation. This area is located on the border between Moldova and Ukraine (back then there was no border here). Forests and the river landscape became part of my life since my early childhood. I started my early scientific life at the age of 10 by studying plants and animals, making herbariums, entomological collections and building information libraries. Later, I became a forest biologist, obtained a PhD in biology/entomology and continued investigating forests, biodiversity and their relation to human beings. The idea of forests and people living in harmony, in spite of current threats (biotic/abiotic influences and the impact of economic development), still strongly lives in me. 

What do you think is the main challenge for forests in Moldova and in the world?

Forests are platforms for economic growth and development. I think that people’s attitude towards forests as ecosystems (having in mind what they are, what they do, and the benefits we derive from them) is extremely important. Forests are self-sufficient and naturally regulated, but mankind threatens to reduce this capacity by intruding into natural processes. Nature-oriented forest management is the path Moldova should take. Low forest coverage and lack of forest resources in Moldova should urge authorities to engage in a forest extension campaign as a way to provide communities with forest products/services and to save the remaining natural forests. This activity should aim at increasing the forest surface. It implies planting forest trees, eventually creating forest plantations (including so-called 'energetic forests') , mostly on degraded agricultural lands, excluded from agricultural use.

Taking into account the increased and widespread demand in forest products of domestic origin (mainly for fuel wood for subsistence needs and other services, such as recreation, tourism, and hunting), there is need to ensure sustainability in forestry and involve all stakeholders. This includes enhancing people’s understanding that we, humans, are also part of biodiversity and our role is to foster co-existence with forests.

What have you been engaged in recently?

After a NATO Science Fellowship Programme in 2002, I worked with the Biological Centre v.v.i. (Czech Republic) on research and conservation activities in the Sumana National Park and other protected areas. My work both at the Natural History Museum (London) and the Zoological Institute (Saint Petersburg), which I had the opportunity to cooperate with, were useful and enjoyable experiences. Cooperation with the Rufford Small Grants Foundation (UK) gave me the opportunity to build a local team and implement two small projects related to transboundary conservation between Moldova and Ukraine. Since 2009, the ENPI FLEG Program has become a priority and kept me very busy.

Can you tell us about a special moment or memorable experience in your work?

I will never forget my first employment when I was 15 year old and only a schoolboy. During the summer holiday, I got the chance to work as assistant to a vegetation pathologist and helped mapping the outbreaks of forest and agricultural pests within the municipal lands. I spent days walking in the areas. Finally, the prognosis analysis was presented, I received my salary, and I felt very happy when the phytopathology engineer thanked me for the good job, saying “your analysis helped us reduce the threats to gardens, orchards and forests; it also helped people improve their livelihoods”.

I owe this to my parents who have always supported me in my aspirations and made my career possible. This research is especially dedicated to my son, Kristian.

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