About Professor Nils Nykvist

Born to Swedish parents in a small village called Kibunzi in the former Belgian Congo, Nils Nykvist, Professor Emeritus at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, started his career as an environmental scientist with studies in botany, geology and chemistry.

He worked as a research assistant at the College of Forestry in Stockholm, before undertaking his PhD in 1963, with a thesis titled “Studies On Leaching And Decomposition Of Litter”. After his PhD studies, he became an associate professor and university lecturer at the College of Forestry.

At that time, the environmental effects of clear felling of forests were starting to be discussed in Sweden. Hence, he started his investigation on the effects of clear felling on soil and vegetation.

Nils also wrote a textbook on soil and soil conservation, together with Professor Tryggve Troedsson.

In 1974, Nils started working as a plant ecologist in Tanzania. Besides soil conservation, his main work then was to examine areas suitable for forest plantations on a large scale. In one instance, he investigated the death of 4000 hectares of pine plantation, and found that the usual soil surveys of the uppermost soil layers prior to planting were inadequate.

In 1976, he was appointed Silviculturist, i.e. Head of the Silviculture Research Station in Tanzania.

When he returned to Sweden two years later, he realized that the seriousness of soil erosion in Tanzania was relatively unknown in Sweden, where soil erosion is relatively insignificant. He therefore held an exhibition and wrote a small book on soil erosion and measures against it.

His experiences from Tanzania subsequently led to consultancy work in Liberia, Vietnam, India, Colombia, Zaire, Sudan, the Philippines, Ethiopia, Zanzibar, Kenya, China, Lesotho, Thailand, Zambia, Malaysia and Pakistan. This consultancy was delivered on top of his regular teaching job at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. As a professor of soil science, he went on field trips with his students to the Soviet Union, West Germany, USA and Canada, Germany, Switzerland and Italy, New Zealand, Thailand and Indonesia and India.

For several years, he taught soil science and soil conservation in Ethiopia and Vietnam.

For shorter periods in 1985, 1990, 1994, 1995, 1998 and 2002, Nils worked as an advisor in a soil conservation project in China. His main task was to suggest appropriate fertilization measures based on soil analyzes.

In 1993, he was appointed Honorary Professor at the Shaanxi Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

When a pulp and paper mill was to be built in the Sabah province in Malaysia, the government demanded a study of the environmental effects. In 1984, he was asked to study the effects on the soil and surrounding environment when the tropical rainforest was clear felled. The investigation was later expanded to include the growth of planted acacia trees in the clear felled areas. The investigation found that acacia plants grew much better in the watershed which was manually logged and not burnt before planting, as compared to another watershed which was treated in the traditional way of being tractor logged and then burnt before planting. These findings suggest the benefits of the latter method.

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