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Alternative models and robust decision-making for future forest management

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ALTERFOR (Alternative models and robust decision-making for future forest management)

Reporting period: 2017-10-01 to 2019-03-31

European forests are expected to provide a broad range of ecosystem services (ES) serving environment, energy sectors, rural development and society at large. This ES provision capacity is however threatened by the uncertainties of climate change, the complex dynamics of evolving global markets and the pressures for increased use of bioenergy. Traditional forest management models (FMMs) are unlikely to ensure the sustained long-term provisioning of desired ES, let alone their optimised delivery. ALTERFOR’s goal is thus to facilitate the implementation of FMMs better suited to meeting the challenges of the 21st century by:

(1) Identifying and developing FMMs robust in their capacity to deliver ES and overcome projected socio-ecological risks and uncertainties;
(2) Assessing the impact of different FMM combinations in terms of resultant ES baskets on the European and landscape level, and
(3) Facilitating the implementation of desired FMMs and improving cross-national knowledge transfer regarding their benefits, costs, management, and utilization.

Alternative FMMs (aFMMs) to meet the future will involve alternative ways of forest management at both stand and landscape level, necessitating broad innovation, from silvicultural techniques over improved ES assessment tools to changes in governance systems.
The future challenges of the European forestry are addressed by a number of prospective scenarios (WP2). Each scenario depicts possible future development over the next 100 years in end-user consumption patterns, climate change impacts, and national and regional policy commitments. With the help of GLOBIOM-G4M modelling framework scenarios take into account demand for forest resources, land use changes, and forest products trade flows globally. This results in national data on prices and demanded volumes of wood commodities over time as a framework for subsequent analyses in each ALTERFOR country.
Starting then from stand level, a description of FMMs was necessary for each case study area. Current FMMs (cFMMs) were described in all regions using a common ontology developed by silviculture and ES experts. In this way, cFMMs were described in a harmonized and standardised way. Similarly, aFMMs were first identified and then described, and special emphasis was given on the most important drivers for proposing a certain aFMM.
The work continued in investigating combinations of FMMs in the landscape in order to meet the desired ES basket under different framework scenarios. The landscape level effects of FMMs were estimated with advanced forest Decision Support Systems (DSSs) which were upgraded to be able to go beyond timber production and include climate change, different management strategies and various ES. DSSs in the respective case study landscape were used to realise long term (100 year) projections of cFMMs and trace the discrepancies between future demand for ES and what silviculture can currently offer. The challenges identified in this step were then used as a basis for introducing a mix of the identified aFMMs in the landscapes and see the outcome after DSS simulations.
The FMMs, at stand as well as at landscape level, are anchored in local and national traditions and regulatory frameworks, and protected by vested interests of different actors. It is important to map this intricate web and identify the main agents of change. The work on this part started by preparing a methodological blueprint on implementation capacity throughout the whole project. Researchers representing all ALTERFOR case studies were trained in actor analysis in order to deliver the report on actors driving FMMs in their countries. The next step was to assemble stakeholders in two workshops in each case study, resulting in a wide range of different interest, such as forest owners and forest owner organizations, government agencies, and NGOs. Almost 700 persons, excluding ALTERFOR researchers, participated in the workshops. Participants took part in the design of realistic aFMMs at stand level. In this way the future implementation of the aFMMs in practice should be easier since stakeholders took part in their design.
The stand and landscape level aFMMs are in many cases focused on protecting or enhancing biodiversity and, to a lesser extent, on increasing timber production. Where risks for calamities are great, like wild fires, specific aFMMs are suggested. A general indication of all cases is that the choice of FMMs has greater effect than the framework conditions (essentially climate change and market developments). Another observation is the great diversity among European countries. With respect to the possibilities to solve problems, ownership structure and forms of governance can be as decisive as natural conditions. Analyses have shown that in some cases more coordination is needed to induce change, whereas in other cases less government control is motivated in order to implement forestry with greater diversity.
ALTERFOR progresses the scientific knowledge and its practical implementation in three principle areas. First, it advances the forest management modelling at multiple spatial scales. ALTERFOR has delivered FMM descriptions of unprecedented detail in a coherent format that allows knowledge transfer between countries. On landscape level the various DSSs are upgraded in such important aspects as the impacts of climate change, spatial explicitness, and considering forest owner diversity and their actual behaviour. The advances on stand and landscape level are based on an extensive and novel work with ES assessments. Experts of multiple ES reviewed current approaches to their modelling, and results went into the stand level FMM descriptions. Subsequently ES assessments were conducted based on DSS simulation outputs at landscape level. Thus, the capacity in Europe to make realistic projections of different forest strategies is improved.
Second, ALTERFOR promotes the capacity to implement desired FMMs. In doing so, the project adopts a newly developed multi-actor analysis, the Research-Integration-Utilisation (RIU) model. The case study teams analysed the actors and their networks, in terms of their interests and power, based on the RIU model. Furthermore, the stakeholder interactions as well as knowledge transfer across participating countries has been enhanced through the innovative TRAVELLAB concept, where field excursions are combined with round table discussion with the local stakeholders. Based on the analyses of implementation capacity, two workshops were organized in each case study. The workshops are pivotal in the process of implementation of aFMMs in practice. Since the content of aFMMs were greatly influenced by the workshop participants, there is both realism and commitment behind the aFMMs that the project develops.
Third, in last part of the project the long-term consequences at EU level of the aFMMs are investigated. Could biodiversity be at danger when production is increased? Or is the general attitude towards new interventions such that the role of forests in climate change mitigation cannot be satisfied? The answers to these and other questions will have implications for EU policies.
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