New EFI study assesses the scientific evidence
by Rach Colling
The bioeconomy has mobilised significant investments in technology, research and innovation. New and innovative bio-products and related services have emerged, and related niche markets show dynamic growth. The future of the bioeconomy, however, raises questions relating to its development potential, but also its sustainability.
The science-based study Towards a sustainable European forest-based bioeconomy – assessment and the way forward provides a synthesis of existing knowledge for policymakers on the importance of forests and the forest-based sector in contributing to the future European bioeconomy. It assesses the economic, social and environmental sustainability of a forest-based bioeconomy, and looks at issues that may affect its development.
Catastrophic forest fires claimed lives this summer across the world, from California to Portugal and Spain. The Mediterranean basin is a global wildfire hotspot and the threat of wildfires to forests and society is expected to increase with climate change.
Scientists from the European Forest Institute (EFI) urge a shift in focus on how we tackle this problem, moving beyond the current emphasis on fire suppression. They argue that the bio-economy offers means to activate management and to demonstrate that forests are a valuable resource, as a smart and sustainable strategy to address the problem of wildfires.
In a new paper published in Forest Policy and Economics, the researchers consider the opportunities offered by a forest-based bio-economy alongside an improved recognition of the value of forests. They suggest a strategic policy shift in favour of fire prevention as part of an integrated forest management strategy, while calling for a shift in mind-set for society to recognise the various ways in which forests provide value.
To some, the forests mean combatting illegal logging and associated trade, avoiding deforestation and degradation, conserving biodiversity and protecting wilderness.
To others, the forests mean timber as a renewable raw material for uses such as construction and bioenergy, forest-based climate change adaptation and mitigation and transitioning toward a forest-based bioeconomy.