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Joining forces in forestry: a pathway to collaborative management strategies

31.07.2017 11:59

Every four years forest practitioners, researchers and decision-makers from all over Spain gather to take stock on forestry advances and discuss future pathways at the Spanish Forestry Congress. This year, the seventh edition took place in Plasencia, Extremadura, from 26 to 30 June. The theme echoed current trends towards a bioeconomy, to reflect the role of innovative forest management models and ecosystem services in fostering new opportunities. This paved the way for the direction the forest sector must take in order to capture the challenges of the 21st century: a circular and bio-based economy.

EFIMED is very active in this topic, organising several events over the last months to explore the complex concept of bioeconomy and understand its potential in the Mediterranean.

Several challenging questions were discussed in the opening speech of the Forest Economy and Policy panel, entitled “Moving forward towards a circular bioeconomy: the role of forests”. Starting from the global milestones of the Sustainable Development Goals and Paris commitments, Elena Gorriz underlined how future economic systems should overcome the negative externalities of traditional oil-based products and services, while meeting the social needs and respecting ecological thresholds. A bioeconomy system needs to channel the current dynamics of supply and demand towards biologically-based products and services. Some countries have developed bioeconomy strategies where the forest sector is a minor component or neglected. The promotion of bio-based supply and demand within the forestry agenda should help to crystallise the circular and bio-based economic paradigm into workable roadmaps. This involves improving the offer of goods and services via innovative sustainable usage of natural resources, value chains and businesses on the one side; while on the other, strengthening and attracting demand in term of consumers, industries and policy-makers.

The role of forest owners is key for feeding these economic models. Competitiveness in the market is an essential success factor for the effective mobilisation of goods and services such as wood provision, tourism initiatives and fire prevention. All these phenomena need interventions at landscape scale to develop resilient responses. Groups of forest owners, associated into new governance entities, could work jointly in the demand and supply of the bioeconomy paradigm, on achieving larger benefits and sharing potential risks.

EFIMED is also working in this direction, with Valentino Marini Govigli presenting the “Challenges for joint private forest management”. This generated an interesting discussion on the topic, currently on the agenda of several Spanish regions, as was shown in the round table of forest ownerships. Models of joint management could, in principle, entail benefits for their members, but also imply management challenges which often preclude their uptake or hinder their consolidation. Some issues (e.g. fiscal, decision and geographic matters) are only partially solved by existing policy instruments which finance joint forest management models. The large bulk of challenges depend directly on forest owners’ internal dynamics and their organization, negotiation, and conflict resolutions skills, trust, and transparency. The role of public and private advisors on promoting joint groups is, therefore, crucial to reinforce these models, minimising existing group challenges.

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