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     INTEGRAL Partners,  Cross-Project Meeting in Dublin 2014  INTEGRAL Consortium   The INTEGRAL consortium consists of 21 partners from 13 countries. Due to the inter-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary nature of the project, the team involves experts with different disciplinary backgrounds and research interests inter alia...

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  • INTEGRAL Newsletter Issue 10/2015

INTEGRAL EU Policy Paper:


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By Sotirov, M., Storch, S., Aggestam, F., Giurca, A., Selter, A., Baycheva, T., Eriksson, L. O., Sallnäs, O., Trubins, R., Schüll, E., Borges, J., McDermott, C.L. , Hoogstra-Klein, M., Hengeveld, G., Pettenella, D. 


Sustainable forest management (SFM) has been broadly established as an objective in European and national forest policy. However, for forest policy-makers, owners, managers, and stakeholder groups across Europe, one key challenge for implementing SFM in practice remains: the integration of different forest-related policy objectives (e.g. bioenergy targets, climate change, nature conservation, recreation) within the context of an uncertain and complex future.There is consequently a need to identify and implement policy and management responses that can help integrate different objectives as well as anticipate and prepare for what the future may have in store. In the recently published INTEGRAL EU Policy Paper, INTEGRAL results have been linked to forest-related policies of the EU, and the current state of forest policy integration and its key drivers have been assessed.


For example, the recently reformed EU rural development policy provided increased flexibility to EU Member States to address the heterogeneity of forest regions across Europe, which implies that the funding for forestry-related measures is now increasingly dependent on Member States’ priorities – for better and worse – in the current programming period (2014-2020). The absence of a coherent and consistent EU regulatory framework for forests can increase the potential risks that come along with such increased flexibility.


The EU Water Framework Directive and Natura 2000 based on the EU Habitats and Birds Directives are other important forest-related policy instruments that could help to improve policy coordination. However, these EU environmental policies are underutilized or poorly implemented. The Water Framework Directive for instance, only notes forests once – as a potential pressure on water – even though forests can play a central role in ensuring water quality and protection. This demonstrates the absence of a voice for forests and how associated sectors (e.g. energy, environment and climate) could improve coordination at the EU level. More effective implementation of Natura 2000 in forests requires better communication, transparency, more funding, and increased cooperation between environmentalists and forestry actors. Climate change is another very significant EU policy domain related to the forest landscape. Arguably, forestry should be better integrated through the EU’s new greenhouse gas mitigation framework with a separate pillar for Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF). Robust carbon sequestration and emission accounting systems and more research and development in this field is needed.


In other cases, such as the EU Bioeconomy Strategy, it is highlighted that critical strategic direction is being given without full consideration of the potential conflicts with existing forest-related policies. It is however clear that the forest sector can become a key player in advancing the EU Bioeconomy Strategy. Forests and forest management will be particularly important for the substitution of non-renewable resources and ensuring sustainable economic development. The bioenergy sector, for example, is one of the most rapidly growing and policy-driven sectors. However, it creates a growing competition between the material and energy use of wood, causing several forest regions to approach the natural boundaries of sustainable timber harvest.


INTEGRAL’s forest footprint research has furthermore considered global footprints for EU and national policies and local management. The EU Timber Regulation for instance, is perceived as bringing new opportunities and advantages to the European timber market, but faces implementation challenges due to inconsistencies and uncertainties in rules and procedures or insufficient resources. In yet other cases, policy development at the EU level is urgently needed to help harness the actual potential of forests, examples of this being Non-Wood Forest Products (NWFP), tourism and urban forests. Demands for these ecosystem services are expected to increase and could help to promote ecological and human health and to maintain profitable wood production.


The INTEGRAL EU Policy Paper concludes by presenting several principles and steps needed to take an integrated approach towards forest policy and management. The previous incoherent policy and management framework should be re-developed to incorporate this integrated approach. For its improvement, participatory decision-making processes on the sub-national landscape level connected to national and European levels, conflict management procedures and systematic monitoring of implementation are recommended.


[Download the Executive Summary]


[Fulltext of the EU Policy Paper]