Small Forests – Big Players: Valorising small scale forestry for a bio-based economy
Coordinator: Silvio Schueler, Austrian Research Centre for Forests (BFW), Austria
silvio.schueler (at) bfw.gv.at
Other partners: DE, FI, SE, SI
Project duration: 12/2018-09/2022
The aim of the project ValoFor was to understand the contribution of small-scale forest owners to the development towards a bioeconomy. As small-scale forest owners encompass 99% of all European forest owners and manage around 60% of Europe’s forests, they play an important role in this development but might encounter increasing challenges. To investigate drivers influencing small-scale forest owners, the project partners in five European countries, i.e. Austria, Finland, Germany, Slovenia and Sweden, approached the task from different points of view to support decision making on forest and policy level.
A survey and a choice experiment with around 2500 small-scale forest owners from the five countries showed that respondents perceived economic, social, and environmental forest values to be very important, but more so in Austria, Finland and Germany than in Slovenia and Sweden. Further, forest owners preferred conventional forestry without contract-based management schemes and if contracts were accepted they rather selected payment schemes targeted to promote environmental values than those focusing on intensified wood production. Comparing paid out subsidies focused on forests further revealed that the five countries pursue different strategies with their subsidy schemes. Consequently, a wide range of activities were promoted, from forest road construction to the conservation/promotion of biodiversity. Furthermore, we found that forest owners with smaller forests received a disproportionately small share of the subsidies paid out.
Based on a modified typical farm approach, a fictitious, typical small-scale forest owner with typical management measures and economic key figures was created for each country. A comparison of costs and revenues showed that the applied management systems and the economic situation of small-scale forest owners differ significantly among the countries.
National forest inventory data were used to simulate the future forest development in the five countries under four forest management scenarios (“Business as usual”, “No management”, “Low management intensity” and “High management intensity”) and under three different climate change scenarios (current climate, RCP4.5 and RCP8.5) until the year 2100. A multi-criteria assessment showed that synergies among important ecosystem services as targets of forest management, such as the maintenance of the forest carbon sink and increasing tree & structural diversity are difficult to reach simultaneously.