In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21 March the International Day of Forests, to celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests.

On 24  March, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) hosted a symposium at Harold Porter National Botanical Gardens, in line with the theme for 2023 "Forests and health.” The symposium was led by The Deputy Minister the Honourable Ms Maggie Sotyu, with delegates including representatives from local government, the Institute of Environment and Recreation Management (IERM) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). A ceremonial tree planting preceded the symposium.

Professor Brenda Wingfield and Dr Trudy Paap presented at the symposium. Brenda spoke about tree pathogens and the research that is currently being conducted in South Africa. She highlighted how the DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Plant Health Biotechnology (CPHB) has spent the last two decades studying the fungi associated with and likely cause disease on many of South Africa’s indigenous trees.  Studies have involved the iconic Baobabs to the intoxicating Marula orchards and include an in-depth study on an epidemic that is currently impacting the Cape Beech in the Harold Porter National Botanical Gardens.

Trudy presented an overview of the Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer (PSHB) invasion in South Africa. Arguably the most damaging tree pest to ever arrive in South Africa, the impacts of this invasive ambrosia beetle are playing out across many sectors. With no immediate control options available, this complex invasion is proving incredibly challenging to manage. Trudy described how the multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary PSHB research network has been established to align efforts to answer important research questions, in order to provide science- and data-based advice to all stakeholders in government and private sectors.