Back to search


Forests and wildlife under pressure – systems analysis for sustainable solutions

Alternative title: Skog og dyreliv under press - systemanalyse for bærekraftige løsninger

Awarded: NOK 19.7 mill.

Climate change will bring storms, flood and forest fires, while warmer temperatures and elevated CO2 concentrations may increase plant growth in the boreal forests of northern Europe. These risks and opportunities are interacting and require long-term foresight to be successfully managed. TaigaClimate develops computation models of natural ecosystems and human activities, which are used to make forecasts of the future consequences of a changing climate and different management alternatives. To construct the model, we use existing and new knowledge on all the important parts of the system, including trees and vegetation, moose and other herbivores, wolves and other predators, natural disturbances from storms and fire, and human activities. We collaborate with the people affected by these changes (stakeholders), in particular forest owners, conservationists, hunters, berry and mushroom pickers, hikers and cabin owners. Their interest organisations play an active role throughout the entire project and help us design likely future scenarios and survey alternative options for forest and wildlife management. This includes considering aspects on costs, benefits and preferences regarding economical, recreational, aesthetic and intrinsic values of the boreal forest. The resulting model forecasts for different climate scenarios and management options will be used to identify how to best manage forests and wildlife, depending on the preferences of the stakeholders. We will develop an online user tool to make this analysis transparent and accessible for the stakeholders and the public. Our project is the first to make quantitative analyses of the long-term effects of climate change on Nordic wildlife populations and forest dynamics in a full ecosystem perspective and including human activities. This will help managers and stakeholders to shape a good future for the boreal forests, their wildlife, and their people.

Climate change will bring storms, fire, and pressure on wildlife, but also enhanced growth potential in the forests. We have a basic understanding of each of these risks and opportunities, but the challenge is that they are interacting and require long-term foresight to be successfully managed. This can only be accomplished if we can look into the future consequence of alternative strategies in a whole system perspective. By creating a prognostic system model, we will assess future prospects for forestry (species, management options), wildlife populations (deer, predators) and biodiversity. A user tool based on a machine learning-approximation of the model will allow us to explore the huge space of possible options to find optimal and sustainable solutions. A user-friendly application of this powerful tool will be made available online to enable forest owners, policy makers and the public to make their own assessments under different climate change scenarios. The project runs over four years and consists of six work packages. WP1 will make use of stakeholders’ insights and needs to define relevant scenarios for the prognostic systems model developed in WP4. The model depends on scientific inputs on direct and indirect, interacting climate effects on forests and their management (WP2) and wildlife (WP3). Finally in WP4, the model will be tested by stakeholders and translated into an open access application. Dissemination and communication (WP5) and project management (WP0) are integrative parts of the entire process. The project is a collaboration between three research institutions and eight non-academic partners representing private landowners, state-owned forests, hunters, berry and mushroom pickers, nature conservation, and training in the forestry sector. Two PhD-positions will strengthen recruitment into collaborative, applied research.