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Spurring INnovations for Forest ECosystem SERvices in Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SINCERE (Spurring INnovations for Forest ECosystem SERvices in Europe)

Reporting period: 2018-01-01 to 2019-06-30

Forests are a crucial reservoir of biodiversity and a place for recreation, are of high importance for climate change mitigation, and provide biomass for the bioeconomy. All goods and services forests do provide for people can be subsumed under the concept of ecosystem services.
The provision of forest ecosystem services for societies is not without challenges. For instance, urban societies may perceive forests predominantly as natural space for recreation, while the forest industry may be most interested in wood. Aligning the provision of forest ecosystem services with societal demands is a challenge for forest policy and management across Europe. The changing ecological conditions of forestry, most importantly climate change, add to this challenge.
This situation is the starting point for SINCERE. SINCERE’s main goal is to advance Innovative Mechanisms (IMs) that support the provision of forest ecosystem services across Europe and beyond, and to align them with a coordinated supportive policy framework. IMs refer to new ways of resolving potential tradeoffs between forest ecosystem services and demands. This may involve new business models (e.g. a mushroom forest that market a forest as a place for harvesting mushrooms) or new governance mechanism (e.g. payment for ecosystem services systems). SINCERE connects knowledge and expertise from different actors across the practical action (forest managers, business, public administration), the scientific knowledge (researchers) and the policy (policymakers) spheres to tackle the following objectives:
1) Provide better knowledge about forest ecosystem services related innovations
2) Develop and advance concrete “innovation actions” for forest ecosystem services provision, and establish a “Learning Architecture” for collaborative learning across cases and countries.
3) Support the innovation actions through analyzing their implementation with regard to sustainability effects, and upscale transferable innovation mechanisms.
4) Analyze how EU policies can (better) contribute to innovations related to the provision of forest ecosystem services.
5) Communicate and disseminate knowledge gathered in SINCERE with different relevant communities, from business and policy making to the society at large.
SINCERE has created a European inventory of IMs supporting the provision of forest ecosystem services. It has further designed a framework to systematically classify and analyze such mechanisms, among other factors, the temporal and spatial scale at which the IMs operate, the specific ecosystem services targeted, the actors involved, the governance structure around the mechanism, and the type of innovation of the IM. SINCERE has also started a Pan-European survey focused on forest owners and managers to elicit the supply of – and perceived demand for – forest ecosystem services in Europe, and to substantiate the established European inventory. Combined with existing spatial data on European forests, this will provide a robust knowledge map of supply and demand of forest ecosystem services, and of IMs that support their supply. These results will be complemented by initiatives and experiences from outside Europe, distilled in reviews. A first result from this ongoing exercise has been the publication of S. Wunder et al., (2018). From principles to practice in paying for nature’s services. Nature Sustainability. Volume 1, pages 145–150.
The main focus of activities in the first 18 months of SINCERE was on an interplay between an in-depth co-design and stakeholder involvement process conducted on the level of the eleven SINCERE innovation action cases (and at the general project level) with analytical work conducted by science partners. As a first step of setting the foundation for the SINCERE Learning Architecture, a stakeholder mapping was conducted in each of the case studies. This allowed for gaining a better understanding of stakeholders and their needs. Subsequently, a first series of regional multi actor group meetings was conducted in the case studies. These regional workshops involved a balanced set of local and regional stakeholders in the analysis of possible innovation measures, sustainability questions and policy factors inhibiting and promoting the planned innovation actions. The findings from these local meetings together with the analysis conducted under objective 1 informed a “Co-Design Event” that was conducted involving local and European stakeholders to discuss critical questions for the innovation cases and to develop pathways to solve them. Armed with the knowledge developed during this event, a second series of regional workshops was conducted to start the implementation of concrete innovation actions in the innovation action cases. Finally, based on a call for “Call for Cross-Fertilisation and Co-Learning Activities”, a workshop involving SINCERE science and practice partners, as well as external actors, has been set up in fall 2019 on the issues of innovations for spiritual forest ecosystem services and the inclusion for small scale forest owners into payment for ecosystem services mechanisms.
SINCERE has developed a rich repertoire of communication and dissemination activities that encompass, inter alia, setting up and managing a lively project webpage, various social media activities, and awareness raising and capacity building campaigns for forest ecosystem services provision:
The first 18 months of SINCERE have been characterized by a combination of extensive reviews and analysis on innovations on forest ecosystem services in Europe and beyond, a thorough stakeholder engagement process in the assessment and preparation of eleven local innovation actions for forest ecosystems services provision, and supporting scientific analyses of the eleven cases, all accompanied by communication and dissemination activities under WP 5 to increase the project impact.
This work has first and foremost been critical to lay the foundations for successful innovation actions in the eleven innovation cases. Yet, it has also already generated some innovative additional outputs, e.g. publications relating to forest ecosystem services innovations and experiences globally. While, naturally, most of the project outputs can be expected for the second and third reporting period, the following statements can be made relating to projects results and impacts:
• The eleven innovation actions for forest ecosystem services provide multifaceted insights into the “local realities” of forest ecosystem services provision, also for “unusual” ecosystem services. For instance, the Swiss case study illustrates the substantial potential of “spiritual” forest ecosystem services for business development, taking the case of funeral forests. Other cases demonstrate also challenges resulting from different worldviews of involved stakeholders, or the policy framework, for forest ecosystem services provision.
• A promising development that went substantially further than initially planned was the setup of a previously mentioned European survey on forest ecosystem services provision and innovations, developed together with the H2020 funded INNOFOREST project.
• The extensive stakeholder involvement process in SINCERE has generate insights, but also data, on innovations for forest ecosystem services that will not only fuel progress in the innovation actions but also the related research in the project.
Co-Design event,January 2019
Cultural services: Spiritual forests
1st Swiss MAG meeting
Sincere website screenshot
2nd Catalan MAG meeting
1st Russian MAG meeting
Regulating services: Forests for water
1st Swiss MAG meeting
Provisioning services: non-wood forest products
1st ECOPAY MAG meeting