- Written by Anna Strom
(Mistra) has granted four more years of funding to Sweden’s largest research programme on forest and land use issues, Future Forests. The announcement came just weeks before the expiry of the programme’s first four-year mandate 31 December, after its work programme for 2013-2016 was changed to further focus on economics and biodiversity issues, according to a Mistra newsletter.
In its first funding period, the cross-disciplinary research programme aimed to take an overall view of the way in which to manage and use the boreal forest sustainably while satisfying a range of actors, including the forestry industry, policy makers and people who use the forest for recreation, fishing and hunting. Thus, the word "trade-off" tended to figure prominently in presentations and analytical reports by the Future Forests' leadership.
Indeed, the programme director Annika Nordin said that as people, "We want renewable energy, renewable materials; we want to conserve biological diversity and we want a forest where we can have great experiences".
An article on the Future Forests’ homepage said the continued Mistra funding would also mean that its Centre for Forest System Analyses and Synthesis (ForSA) would outlive the research programme and become a permanent research “platform” at SLU, to deal with “complex land use issues”. There was no indication, however, whether funding pledges to "Future Forests 2" had been made by other first-round sponsors: Skogforsk, Swedish forestry industry, Umeå University (UmU) and the programme's host organisation, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU).
More involvement by environmental campaigners wanted
During its first four years of operation, Future Forests issued well over 100 peer-reviewed scientific articles on topics ranging from the way in which to manage forests for optimal growth, to environmental consequences of forestry and forest pests, and to people’s attitudes to forests as a generator of income or hunting game, or providing grounds for recreation. It also organised events, such as meetings and excursions, and issued working reports and popular science publications. Its scientists include forest production researchers, ecologists, economists, political scientists, sociologists and historians, according to a press release from UmU.
The announcement of continued funding came 11 December after the conclusion of an evaluation process by an international expert group. According to the Mistra newsletter, the group said that there had been too little focus on economics and biodiversity issues in the first funding period and that the involvement of representatives of the environmental movement had been insufficient. However, a re-worked working programme for the second funding period 2013-2016 appears to have washed away Mistra decision-makers' reticence, who have granted a further SEK56 million for the four years ahead.
“Knowledge produced by Future Forests should contribute to society’s receiving more of everything from the forest”, said the programme director Nordin, who is a professor of forest genetics and plant physiology at SLU.
“An open dialogue between researchers and societal actors is an important part of Future Forests”, she added.