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UBC Forestry professor receives ‘Nobel Prize of Forest Research’

April 29, 2020
By University of British Columbia (UBC)

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 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 honourabe 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.