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What are the benefits of a forest-based bioeconomy?

According to a January 4, 2018 press release from Science|Business (a European network of universities, companies, and research and policy organizations), the benefits of a forest-based bioeconomy are wide-reaching—and in the EU, ongoing research will drive innovation and markets.

Below, find the press release and summation of the findings from the event, “Forest-based bioeconomy – benefits for climate, jobs and growth,” held in Brussels in November, 2017, by the University of Eastern Finland (UEF) and LUKE Natural Resources Institute, Finland.

The event called for an increased role and identification of research needs of forest-based circular bioeconomy to address climate change, substitution of fossil-based materials, multiple use of forests and governance of bioresources. This is a summary of the discussion:

Sustainable, resilient and climate-smart forestry meets the challenges of changing climate.
• Multiple-use forests have a dual role in combatting climate change. The forests sequester and store carbon, while wood based materials can act as carbon sinks and reduce carbon emissions by substituting fossil-based materials and energy.
• Climate-smart Europe needs research on dynamics and multi-objective management of forest ecosystems, impact of forest management practices on biodiversity and assessments of risks in changing climate. These research topics are all linked with life-cycle assessment, forest inventory and modelling and optimizing tools.
• Open source software tools and web-based services linked with almost real-time data from different sectors support both sustainable management of natural resources and development of bio-based industries.

Multiple use of forests offers business potential.
• More research on health benefits of forests and other types of natural environments is needed. Ongoing urbanization increases the demand for new business concepts and added-value services based on immaterial values of forests.
• Research on public perception, acceptance of bio-based products and future consumption behavior is required to develop forest-based bioeconomy. The trade-offs related to the competing use of material and immaterial benefits of forests need to be investigated and reconciliated.
• Novel policies, business models and funding mechanisms, such as payment schemes for cultural ecosystem services need to be studied and piloted to enhance an adequate supply of amenity values of forests.
• The importance of non-timber products (e.g. game, mushrooms, berries, and wild herbs) and immaterial values of forests (e.g. scenic values, recreation and tourism) is growing in Europe. Targeted research activities can help to develop product concepts from these forest products. Better understanding of new value networks, international markets and business concepts is crucial for the growth of forest-based bioeconomy.
• Sustainable wood production is economically the most important use of forests. Thus, research on improving the efficiency and profitability of forestry and wood procurement are crucial for the future development of the forest sector.

(There is) transformation from non-renewables towards sustainable bio-based materials.
• Forest value chain provides a multitude of product opportunities from different wood components, feedstock materials and side streams.
• Transformation of wood components to edible protein, food hydrocolloids or other food ingredients can improve the EU food or feed trade balance.
• There is a global demand to develop renewable and bio-degradable packaging materials. Intelligent reconstitution of wood biomass components to multilayer packaging materials offer an environment-friendly solution to reduce plastic waste in the oceans.

Responsive multi-actor forest governance supports transition towards bioeconomy.
• The implementation of bioeconomy strategies (in EU) should be based on multidisciplinary research and multi-actor involvement. It is important to understand the impacts of different scenarios; for example, in case of utilization of forest resources, biodiversity protection and social sustainability.
• Research on multi-actor and cross-sectoral responsive approaches and on the possibilities and limitations of collaborative governance and participation are needed in order to find new ways to manage the conflicts of interest and to support responsive multiactor governance.
• Participation of citizens requires sufficient participatory rights, an interactive collaborative approach to empower various institutions and public debate on the development of people’s living environment and environmental capability (i.e those bioeconomy opportunities to achieve outcomes people value).

The Science|Business Network of universities, companies, and research and policy organizations is a uniquely powerful forum for driving innovation forward. The network offers newsletters, meetings, and reports to bring together three worlds which should work together but too often stumble apart: industry, research and policy. Learn more at www.sciencebusiness.net.


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