Forschungs- & Entwicklungsinformationsdienst der Gemeinschaft - CORDIS

Periodic Report Summary 2 - STAR TREE (Multipurpose trees and non-wood forest products a challenge and opportunity)

Project Context and Objectives:
Europe has set a clear and ambitious strategy (Europe 2020 Strategy) to base its economy on a smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Part of this concept is to initiate the development towards an innovative, resource efficient and bio-based (bio-economy) European economy. In this framework, European forests (40% of the EU’s landmass) provide multiple goods (wood and non-wood) and services (e.g., capturing 10% of EU’s CO2 emissions, being the main host for biodiversity, providing high-quality water) to rural communities and society in general. Thus, European forests and the forest-based sector play an increasingly important role in fostering smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in Europe based on the production of eco-services and eco-efficient products from wood and non-wood-based products.
Up to now the forest-based sector has been mainly built around wood based products due to the great relative economic importance of wood and the well structured and competitive value chains based on such raw material (wood products, pulp and paper, bio-energy). However, the full potential of non-wood forest products (NWFP) (e.g., forest fruits, mushroom, cork, pine kernels, acorns, medicinal herbs, essential oils, chestnuts etc.) has been mostly neglected. Especially in regions where wood is not very profitable, NWFP can offer a real alternative and potential to increase the socio-economic opportunities and competitiveness of rural economies. Still, unlocking the full potential of NWFP requires new knowledge and tools to optimise the sustainable provision and profitability of NWFP and services from multipurpose trees (MPT), and a better understanding on the potentials of markets for NWFP and of the role of innovation processes for new products and services.
StarTree recognises the importance of MPT and NWFP in the context of strengthening and diversifying the economic activities in the rural areas. Thus, the project’s overarching objective is to provide better understanding, knowledge, guidance and tools to support relevant stakeholders in optimising the management of multi-purpose trees and developing innovative approaches for increasing the marketability and profitability of NWFP for a more competitive rural economy.
In this frame StarTree will:
• Generate sound empirical data that will contribute to a better general understanding of the current situation in the NWFP sector in different regions across Europe;
• Involve relevant stakeholders along the value chain of NWFP and MPT to better understand their needs and preferences, and provide them with custom-tailored solutions;
• Develop decision support tools and management guidelines for optimizing the management of MPT and the provision of wood and NWFP and related services;
• Provide a proper understanding of the current structure and dynamics of the NWFP market, and its possible future development;
• Generate innovative tools that will guide small and medium enterprises in the development of successful marketing strategies to increase their competiveness;
• Identify existing policies and institutions at the European, national and regional level, affecting the NWFP sector, and propose adjustments to foster the competiveness of the sector at different scales;
• Provide extended knowledge about innovation systems and processes in the NWFP sector and about the roles of different public and private actors in supporting them;
• Generate an comprehensive overview of innovative NWFP examples, and develop and disseminate ideas on new NWFP;
• Generate an information source and support materials for relevant stakeholders that will facilitate an optimal utilization of opportunities offered by MPT and NWFP.
To reach this targets, StarTree relies on a set of carefully chosen regional and in-depth case studies and a strong stakeholder engagement.

Project Results:
The StarTree project is composed of 7 work packages (WP). WP6 covers dissemination and communication, and WP7 is dedicated to management and coordination. WP1 represents the participatory pillar of the project as it builds a strong relation between the project and relevant stakeholders at the regional level and provides relevant data for other WPs. WPs 2 to 5 are building the knowledge pillar, developing solutions (models, methods and tools) for the issues identified through the stakeholder engagement. There is a constant flow of information between and within these two pillars that should ensure that the developed solutions are integral and relevant for different stakeholders.

In WP 1 case study coordination, action research and stakeholder consultation take place. In the first reporting period, this WP mainly focused on the preparation of data collection protocols and data collection. In the second reporting period it developed, based on the collected case study regions’ data an overview of the Non-wood Forest Products’ (NWFP) sector in Europe. As such this is the first report ever that compiles information about the NWFP at the European level. The report includes results from eight separate enquires covering all aspects of the StarTree project. The multidisciplinary nature of StarTree’s enquiries allowed for triangulation of results and the emergence of a synergistic overview of the sector. The main findings are, (i)
there is a strong NWFP collecting culture in Europe backed by common property regimes for personal use of berries and mushrooms, (ii) legislation provides legal protection of forest owners’ rights to commercial exploitation of NWFP resources on their land, but the distinction between personal and commercial use and rights to restrict access to land are often ill defined, poorly understood and difficult to enforce, (iii) there are only a few European NWFP products which are significant in global trade; these being cork and mushrooms, (iV) there is a lot of evidence of the successful exploitation of innovative niche markets for NWFPs linked to regional identity and tourism, (v) commercialisation of services predicated on personal use of NWFPs – so-called ‘experiential products’ represent interesting emerging markets evident mostly in northern countries, (vI) NWFP are generally under-recognised by both the forestry and rural development sectors with few focussed support mechanisms for development of silviculture, forest management, regulation, innovation or enterprise development.

WP2 aims to develop silvicultural guidelines, models and decision support tools to enhance the profitability of MPT and NWFPs management by combining wood and NWFP. During the first reporting period this WP aimed at describing existing silvicultural techniques and management for MPT and NWFP, describing available models and simulators, and Decision Support Systems for MPT and NWFPs. In the second project period the focus was on the improvement of existing models and development of new models or modules for existing models were developed where needed. Models for Stone pine (Pinus pinea L.) and cork oak (Quercus suber L.), mushrooms and berries were revised. The countries in which these models have been developed are Portugal (stone pine and cork oak), Spain (stone pine, cork oak and mushrooms) and Finland (mushrooms and berries).

The main objective of WP3 is to provide knowledge about the current structure and dynamics of the NWFP markets and about the potential development at different scales. Up to date the focus was on data collection about international and regional markets. At the international level the global trade of selected NWFP was examined based on the COMTRADE data. These NWFPs were: berries, mushrooms, cork, tannins, nuts, foliage and honey. The international trade of the selected NWFP commodity groups reached 12 billion US$ in 2011. However, part of the considered commodities that compose this value are cultivated. The EU has a strategic role in the international NWFP market, accounting for 50.4% of the total export value of commodities based on raw or processed NWFP. The main NWFP in which the EU dominates as the global supplier are truffles and cork. Also in the case of chestnuts, the EU exports accounted for 51.1% of the global trade.

At the regional level, NWFP supply chains were explored through the application of a questionnaire in the case study regions. The market of Non-Wood Forest Products (NWFP) is segmented onto small specific markets, which themselves relay on numerous supply chains. The work describes in details the different structures of supply chains for a limited number of NWFPs in 14 regional case studies across Europe. The analysis of different regional NWFPs supply chains highlighted the presence of a dualistic development of the market, where the Eastern European Countries supply the industrialized states; especially for the supply of fresh products. Moreover, the role of international market become fundamental for the supply of a large variety of raw NWFPs to the European small-medium enterprises (SME), which are unable to purchase enough products from local, regional or national producers at price with which they can create profits. In countries where the demand of a given NWFP was high, we found a consistent and flourishing informal market.

The aim of WP4 is to understand the role of institutions (policies, regulations, policy instruments and informal norms) in the provision and consumption of NWFP. In the first 18 project months the main emphasis was on compiling information on formal institutions (policies, property right regulations and policy instruments) shaping the production and consumption of NWFPs for all the case studies at regional and national level (where relevant). Furthermore, a preliminary analysis of the role of formal institutions, especially in terms of the facilitating and impeding factors for NWFP sector development (e.g., formal conditions and requirements for starting a business, availability of institutional support) was conducted in selected case studies. In the second period aim was the identification of informal institutions governing NWFP provision and consumption, as well as the exploration of stakeholder perceptions regarding the institutional constraints and opportunities (both formal and informal).

Institutions – that is, policies, legislation, property rights and policy instruments have a fundamental importance for Non-Food Forest Products (NWFP) sector development. At European Union level, there are neither policies nor legislation specifically and exclusively targeting non-wood forest products. However, the recognition of the ecologic, economic and social role of NWFP and the willingness to promote them is highlighted in different European and International policies and agreements concerning forests. However, at national and sub-national level over 160 instruments addressing NWFPs have been identified in the case studies. The NWFP category for which the highest number of instruments have been identified –is that of mushrooms, truffles and other fungi, followed by instruments addressing game and hunting, fruits and nuts, berries and other NWFP. The overwhelming majority of the identified instruments address in one way or another collection or harvesting of NWFPs. They are followed by instruments related to consumption and trade, while the least number of instruments has been identified on the side of production, that is, those instruments addressing primarily forest owners or forest managers.
In addition to formal regulations, in most regions there exist informal institutions, either concerning the harvesting rights or the harvesting practices, or both, and their importance vis-à-vis formal institutions (if there are any) typically depends on various factors, such as the resource itself (e.g. perception of scarcity), or the community of its users and relations within this community (e.g. populations of different types of users). Good harvesting practices are typically well known, at least by local population, and followed by some and in many cases, by the majority of pickers, but there are also those who do not follow these good practices. Opinions about those who do not follow good practices and why they do not do it typically depend on the case study.

The overall aim of WP5 is to get a better understanding of the innovation processes in the management of MPT and in the production of NWFPs, the roles of the actors in the innovation systems, and to develop practical guidelines and tools for innovation support. In the first period the collection of data on the identification of actors and their roles in the innovation systems as well as the relevant policies on several levels has been completed. Further, the assessment of innovation systems and processes in the case study regions was initiated, and innovative examples for new forest products across Europe have been collected and documented. Around 400 innovative examples have been collected. These focus on innovative non-wood forest products and innovations by the forest-based sector in Europe and internationally.

In the second period an analysis of the innovation systems (IS) that are relevant for non-wood forest products was carried out. For this a comparison of relevant innovation systems (policies and actors and their interrelations) related to non-wood forest products (NWFPs) in the regions. The analysis of innovation related policies on European and national levels relevant for NWFP focused on existing legislation (legal policy instruments), binding or non-binding, which affect innovation in the use of NWFP and MPT for both the EU as well as the national levels. Innovation policies in the forest sector do very much intersect with other policy areas such as forestry policy, forest based industry policies, rural and regional development policy and also renewable energy policy. At the EU level, all these policies are coordinated by formally existing central coordination bodies, namely the European Commission and the Committee of the Regions. The related policy documents are reflecting increasing mainstreaming of forestry issues with the policy goal of fostering “innovativeness”. At the national level we have discovered only in a third of the countries covered in our study an inclusion and mentioning of “innovativeness” as an economic tool. There, it should foster forestry and the production of NWFPs for the creation of new jobs, the founding of new businesses and the change towards a greener and diverse economy. However, these tend to be rather “divided” between the sphere of forestry legislation and the sphere of innovation and development legislation (Seperated into forest management, timber production versus high-tech R&D innovation and foremost bigger sectors which compose of larger companies and (multi-)national enterprises). Rural development policies are the relevant ones for NWFPs, although, being typically oriented towards the agricultural sector in the narrow sense, they are not often taken up in forestry and/or for NWFPs. Finally, however, we can show that there are increasingly integrative policy approaches in the existing national forestry policies, particularly in the case of Wales, Scotland and Finland.

WP 6 develops and coordinates the dissemination and communication activities. The focus is on establishing a communication and dissemination infrastructure, and to provide guidance to project partners on dissemination aspects into their activities. This entails the development of a dissemination plan, corporate design (e.g., logo, document templates), communication infrastructure, newsletter, factsheets and brochure. Special attention is given to the development and maintenance of the website and other social media. In period 2, emphasis was given on dissemination implementation activities, i.e. concrete activities listed in the dissemination plan, and the further design of the final products to be implemented in the final project period.

WP 7 is responsible for the project coordination and management including the organisation of project meetings, reporting, and tracking of work progress, deliverable submission, and financial control.

Potential Impact:
StarTree is expected, in the long-term, to diversify the traditional wood-producing forestry value chain and foster the competitiveness and innovative socio-economic activities in rural communities based on enhanced business opportunities around MPT and NWFP. In this context, small and medium enterprises (SME) will gain solutions for improving the management and profitability as well as the commoditization and marketing of non-wood products based on:
i) new knowledge and tools to optimise the provision of goods and services from MPT and develop strategies for their conservation and sustainable management.
ii) better understanding on the potentials of markets for NWFP, including the role of public and private actors in supporting the innovation processes for new products and services based on consumers' behaviour and patterns.
This will benefit the rural population as much as land owners and companies through a more competitive and robust rural economy and a better quality of life. Through diversification of their production and businesses, more land owners, processors and traders and their employees may have viable income possibilities from their properties. The companies in this sector are predominantly small or micro firms. Through better income possibilities as well as more lively communities, healthier environment and better services and amenities from the rural landscape, depopulation trends may be reduced, the life of rural communities enriched, and the infrastructure in rural areas maintained.
Diversification into non-wood products has the potential to make forestry and related business activities of forest owners and the further elements in the value chains more profitable and better prepared for economic crises. Relevant studies see significant neglected potentials in new business activities of forest owners. Numerous successful examples show great potentials of this underdeveloped sector, both at enterprise and regional levels. It is not predicted that the non-wood sector would override the timber production overall, but it is proven that non-wood activities can have a significant income share from land resources. These potentials may be used by single land owners with the relevant interest and know-how, particularly in certain regions, such as touristic regions or regions adjacent to metropolitan areas. For certain regions with a specific production potential, e.g. cork trees, chestnut groves, mushrooms, or berries, etc., the market value of these may easily outgrow wood production. Examples are known from the Mediterranean region but also from Scandinavian countries.
A further positive effect of a better development of non-wood products may be expected in the field of forest-related use conflicts. Forest conflicts often arise from the gap between new societal demands towards natural resources and the lacking provision from rural economies. For example, urban population puts a growing value on undisturbed nature, natural biodiversity, landscape amenities, natural and wild fruits, etc. On the other hand, rural communities have the resources and capacities to satisfy this demand, but they lack the understanding for the urban demands and therefore neglect those interests. Therefore, has a better understanding of urban demands the potential to reduce the conflicts around the use of forest land.
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Scientific Research
Datensatznummer: 183833 / Zuletzt geändert am: 2016-06-13
Informationsquelle: SESAM