Wood biology

Wood biology and forest ecology of tropical Africa

***While the museum building is closed for
renovation, scientific research will continue at Tervuren.***

woodbioWood biology analyses the anatomical structure of lignified tissues (wood anatomy) and the growth processes of trees (dendrochronology). The laboratory of wood biology studies in particular tropical African trees and other ligneous plants. As such our work contributes to forest ecology and underpins sustainable production of wood in tropical Africa.

Fields of research:

  • anatomical features of wood species;
  • growth of trees and forest ecology;
  • physiology of tropical trees;
  • archaeobotany and history of ancient forests through analysis of charcoal present in the soil. 

Our xylarium is a reference collection with more than 67 000 wood samples from all over the world. Due to our experience and these collections, we can provide independent expertise, not limited to tropical Africa:

  • wood identification for the timber trade and industry (including CITES), for art history, for archaeology and paleontology;
  • dating of wood by studying growth ring patterns.

In addition, we are developing capacity building programs for African institutions and provide trainings for teachers and the private sector.

Internally, we work together with the ichtyology and linguistics sections in the field of sustainable forest management, with the archaeology section for history of the forests and with zoology and geology for forest ecology.

The service has its origin in the late 19th century. At the time, its aim was the study of wood varieties with a potential commercial value. Since the 1960s, research was mainly concentrated on identification of botanical species from different contexts. Since the 1990s, we have been mainly concerned with forest ecology. 


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