– Speaking with “one voice” is important if we are to make an impact on policy development as well as funding opportunities in the European context.
Text: Mats Hannerz
Mika Mustonen is coordinator of the SNS-funded network Promoting sustainable forestry in a growing bioeconomy for Europe (PROFOR). He is concerned about all the conflicting information raining down upon those responsible for decisions about forest policies and regulations at the EU-level.
– The Nordic and Baltic forests have a vital role in the transition towards a circular bioeconomy, but decision-makers in Brussels often have vague ideas about the sustainability status of the boreal forests. We need to raise their level of competence, and this requires a joint effort from experts in many different fields, he says.
Wide range of disciplines
PROFOR assembles expertise from a wide range of disciplines. Researchers and communicators within sustainable forest-based bioeconomy, ecosystem services and climate change and adaptation are some examples. The network aims to create and communicate a common story about Nordic-Baltic forestry.
– We know that forests provide a range of goods for society besides the products that come from the forest industry, such as clean water, clean air, biodiversity and social benefits. But still, forestry in itself creates environmental challenges that need to be addressed in a common story, and we need to highlight situations when sustainability goals are in conflict with each other. says Mika Mustonen.
Focus on Sustainable Development Goals
The common story will focus on six of the seventeen UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and how forests and forestry can contribute to them. The relevant SDGs are: DG6 Clean water and sanitation, DG7 Affordable and clean energy, DG8 Decent work and economic growth, DG9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, DG13 Climate action, and DG15 Life on land.
More specifically, forests contribute as follows:
• Forests and Humans – Forests in Nordic-Baltic countries have supported humans since ancient times for food, fodder, fuel and shelter. Today, forestry not only provides raw materials for forest industries, but offers many opportunities for sustainable rural livelihoods. Moreover, forests are deeply rooted in our common cultures and belief systems.
• Forests and Biodiversity – Biodiversity is decreasing in many landscapes, owing to increased fragmentation, habitat loss and habitat isolation. Wise forest management can contribute to reversing these processes.
• Forests and Carbon – Boreal forests store large amounts of carbon both in trees and in the soil. Growing trees take up CO2 and store it in trunks, twigs and roots. This carbon returns to the atmosphere when wood decomposes. Wood products can be carbon neutral as long as there is adequate reforestation. As a substitute for concrete, wood can substantially reduce the carbon footprint of buildings.
• Forests and Water – There are more and more examples of how forests and woodlands are beneficial to both water quality and quantity. Innovative new technologies to protect water during forest harvest are now in widespread use.
Workshops and story-map
PROFOR started in 2019 with workshops in Riga and Tallinn, and a public event in Brussels. The network assembles researchers and stakeholders from Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden. One of the tasks focused on at the workshops was the writing of a position paper, outlining the state and challenges for Northern European forestry. This position paper was presented to a 65-person audience consisting of decision makers from EU institutions and Brussels’ stakeholders in a workshop in December (2019) in Brussels.
The network continues in 2020 with two workshops, the first being held in Vilnius in March 2020. A final meeting in Brussels will be used to present the outcome from the workshops to decision makers and stakeholders in the form of a ‘story map’ (a story-map is a web-based graphic organizer that combines maps with media such as text, photos and videos).
– Besides the position paper, which will be submitted as a scientific article, we will create a story-map on the internet. The story-map will communicate the important role of the Nordic-Baltic forests in the European and global bioeconomy, as well as the challenges with biodiversity, climate change and risks with pests, insects and storm felling.
– Healthy forests rich in biodiversity should be valued for their own sake, as well as for the benefits we derive from them. Balanced and inclusive forest management can contribute to creating and maintaining ecosystems resilient to future challenges, says Mika Mustonen in a concluding remark.