Training the next generation forest scientists through integrative fungal research as cross-sector and crossborder collaboration (ForestFun)

Coordinator: Mika Bendiksby, , Natural History Museum, University of Oslo


In-depth biodiversity knowledge is essential for maintaining stable and resilient forest ecosystems in the Nordic countries. At the same time, maintaining high levels of biodiversity is challenging for Nordic forestry under a changing climate combined with an increasing demand for timber as building materials and for energy production.

This creates an urgent need for broadly trained scientists, foresters and forest conservationists able to address these challenges through relevant research projects, delivering results and tools for both sustainable forestry and effective biodiversity management practices.

Unfortunately, there are currently few opportunities for students and early career researchers to obtain the necessary integrative academic training in forest ecology and species knowledge for research-based biodiversity management.

Lichens are essential to forest ecosystems and crucial components of biogeochemical cycles in terrestrial environments by virtue of their unique symbiotic relationship with other organisms. Moreover, the composition and diversity of lichens, including the lichen-associated fungi utilizing them as substrate for their growth, tells us something about a forest’s health. Epiphytic lichens, for example, are well-known indicators for habitat quality. They are frequently used for monitoring the health of old-growth forests and for evaluating management practices. Several so-called macrolichens and pin-lichens are iconic examples for old-growth forest biodiversity that shape the picture of many natural, healthy boreal forests.

This project creates a strongly needed arena for knowledge transfer across generations, borders, sectors and disciplines in the fields of forestry and biodiversity research while at the same time training a new generation of scientists. In detail, the project will…

  • Contribute to the training of the next generation of Nordic forest researchers, providing them with the necessary species knowledge in lichens and liehen associated fungi together with relevant methods for studying these organisms
  • Foster scientific exchange and networking among senior and young researchers, across sectors, borders and disciplines, for increased future research initiatives across the Nordic countries
  • Conduct, within a series of three field workshops in Finland, Norway and Sweden in collaboration with the Research School in Biosystematics (ForBio), a small pilot study on the influence of various management practices on the diversity of lichens and lichen-associated fungi in boreal spruce forests.

With its focus on lichens and lichen-associated fungi, this project focusses on highly relevant but often neglected groups of forest organisms in the Nordic countries.