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Enabling synergies among value creation, climate adaptation, biodiversity, and sustainable use of temperate broadleaf forests

Alternative title: Synergier mellom verdiskaping, klimatilpassing, biodiversitet og bærekraftig bruk av edelløvskog

Awarded: NOK 12.0 mill.

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Project Period:

2023 - 2027

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Forestry in south Norway is dominated by the spruce value chain with widespread planting, harvesting, and processing of spruce, mainly for paper and saw wood production. The forests of the future need to be sustainably used and adapted to the rapidly changing climate. Spruce, however, is sensitive to climate change. Therefore spruce is already losing ground in many parts of Europe. How can we reduce risks from droughts and storms, keep up value creation, and at the same time improve the situation for biodiversity and other forest ecosystem services under a changing climate? Temperate broad-leaf tree species are better adapted to warmer weather and winter storms than spruce. Planting more temperate broad-leaf trees for high-quality timber, may therefore promote forests that are better adapted to warmer climate with more frequent storms. This will also be good for biodiversity. Without widespread planting, however, oaks and other temperate broad-leaf trees will not be able to spread as fast as the climate changes. While seemingly promising, a transition from spruce production to temperate broad-leaf tree production is challenging. In this collaborative project, we study how a transition to more temperate broad-leaf tree production may be realized for Norway. Forest ecologists and local managers study forest regeneration and how to protect oak plantations from ungulate browsing. Economists study the economic and social viability of managing young mixed forests for high quality oak timber and other ecosystem services. Social scientists, forest interest representatives, and policy experts analyse societal support and challenges for increased production of temperate broadleaf timber. Finally, industrial and wood technology partners lead trials to guide product development based on broad leaf timber to increase the demand for Norwegian temperate broad-leaf trees. Such use and demand may enable the forestry value chain to adapt to the future climate.

As part of the green transition, new sustainable uses of forests and wood need to be developed to meet several challenges, for example adaptation to climate change. While doing so, co-benefits and synergies between production and ecosystem services should be exploited as drivers of change, whenever possible. Climate risks and their associated costs in spruce-dominated forestry motivate an increased focus on temperate broadleaf (TBL) trees, and higher demand for high-quality timber from, and planting of, these trees can assist their dispersal and climate tracking. At the same time, a higher share of TBL trees has important co-benefits for biodiversity. In this trans-sectorial project, we will identify bottlenecks and opportunities for diversifying the market with TBL wood, using oak as an example. By involving important private and public stakeholders in an effective collaborative effort we focus on four key areas to enable the described transition: 1) creating new products and value chains based on Norwegian oak, 2) overcoming the practical challenges of converting (storm-damaged) spruce forest to oak forest considering the unsustainably high browsing pressures, 3) developing the potential for sustainable high-quality oak timber production by management of recent mixed forests with spruce, and 4) analysing the opportunities for a transition to TBL production ensuing from national and international policy and regulations. We also analyse possible cultural and socio-economic bottlenecks of importance for a deeper understanding barrier for a transition to more broadleaf trees in Norwegian forestry. The project is a collaboration between forestry partners and small enterprises from southern Norway, and researchers in the fields of wood technology, forestry, ecology, environmental economics, and social sciences. The project is unique by its constructive, collaborative and integrative approach to increasing climate resilience and forest sustainability of Nordic forestry.

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