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Published

18 February 2016

Major conference on forest research

Future Forests’ programme period is nearly at an end, and comprehensive work is under way to obtain a synthesis. The first stage in the process is a three-day conference in mid-February, filled with numerous interdisciplinary findings. Rather than just marking the end of the programme, this represents a start for a new permanent centre for interdisciplinary forest research.

For seven years, Future Forests researchers have sought answers to questions about how forests should best be used and managed to meet a wide variety of demands and requirements. These range from extracting more biomass for energy purposes to the desire for forest land to be preserved intact to fulfil recreational needs.

In just over a year the second programme period will be concluded, but before that there is a great deal to be done, not least to ensure a living legacy.

ʻWe’re working hard now to ensure that the interdisciplinary research we’ve been doing in the programme continues in a new permanent centre for interdisciplinary forest research,’ says Camilla Sandström, the deputy director of Future Forests.

The hope is that on the same day that Future Forests is finally discontinued, the doors to the new centre will be ready to open. The plan is to keep the Future Forests brand alive and for the three stakeholders involved to date — the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Umeå University and the Forestry Research Institute of Sweden (Skogforsk) — to form the basis of the new initiative as well.

Sandström continues: ‘Establishing interdisciplinary research takes a long time. Thanks to our hard work, we’ve succeeded and we’re convinced that, in a new centre, we’ll be able to move interdisciplinary forest research another step forward.’

Uniquely wide-ranging forest research

The unique feature of Future Forests is that has entailed not only close collaboration between natural and social scientists: the humanities, too, have played a self-evident part and the research has also been based on extensive cooperation with forest stakeholders. This is an approach that Camilla Sandström seeks to emphasise as crucial for the programme’s successes, and would like to see continuing.

Right now, alongside the future plans, the management group for Future Forests is in full swing with the final synthesis. All loose ends are now being tied together to make a coherent whole.

‘During our years of work in the programme, we’ve got to know one another well. This paves the way well for further collaboration, not least because we’ve found a common language and gained a greater understanding of one another’s disciplines. This means that we’re quite capable of stepping over what used to be the hard-and-fast research boundaries.’

To achieve this, in Sandström’s view, the long-term research that Mistra stands for has been an essential precondition.

Thematic conference

The synthesis work, which is to continue throughout 2016, is kicking off with a three-day conference at the Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry in mid-February. There, stakeholders and decision-makers will be told about research results in the areas of biodiversity, climate, forestry, and about land and water in the forests of the future.

‘Although the conference is arranged by theme, all the items on the programme have something in common: how society is to exert control and get organised so that we can achieve the targets set by the decision-makers for future forests,’ Sandström says

The conference is being held at the Academy in Stockholm on 16–18 February because that is where the decision-makers, a key target group, may be found.

Future Forests has also been honoured with an entire issue of Ambio, the journal of environmental science published by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (RSAS). Numerous articles in the issue explore the various initiatives of the programme.

‘What was most interesting is that we were able to see our various research inputs presented in a single place. This made it extra clear what we’ve achieved over the years. It enabled us to look at ourselves from a bird’s-eye view, which helped to show that our various studies fit into one another like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.’

Text: Per Westergård

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