Forests and wildlife under pressure – systems analysis for sustainable solutions


Boreal forest is a basis for many societies in the taiga zone where natural and cultural heritage is tightly connected to forests and wildlife. It is home to a high diversity of species, ecological processes and functions. However, exploitation and use of forest resources strongly influences and shapes today’s forests. For instance, hunting is of economic importance as well as having essential recreation values, however, moose can cause damage to forest production, leading to conflicts of interests between different actors and a preference for planting spruce instead of pine to avoid damages; this in turn alters biodiversity and recreational value.

Moreover, climate change will radically transform the northern forests - the foundation for societies across Nordic countries - in several ways. 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. Because of the changing environmental conditions, the future behaviour of the system can no longer be predicted based on extrapolation of historical observations. This can only be accomplished if we can look into the future outcomes of alternative strategies in a system-wide perspective.

By co-creating a prognostic system model with key forest stakeholders, the TaigaClimate project will assess future prospects for forestry, wildlife, recreation, and biodiversity. A user tool based on a machine learning-approximation of the processed-based model will allow us to narrow down the huge space of possible options to find pareto- optimal alternatives. These will be discussed with stakeholders to find the most acceptable and sustainable solutions based on their preferences. A user-friendly application of this powerful tool will be made available online to enable forest owners, policy makers and the general public to make their own assessments under different climate change scenarios (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Systems perspective of forest and wildlife management. Climate controls biological processes and the capacity of the ecosystems to supply services to society. Societal transformations and stakeholder preferences drive demands for products and ecosystem services. The market forces make forest and wildlife management adjust until supply balances demand. The User tool allows us to evaluate the impacts of different policy and management options for all stakeholders.

The TaigaClimate project is funded by the Research Council of Norway (projectnumber 326843). The project is led by Inland Norway University of Life Sciences and also includes the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in its research group. The project also includes the following stakeholders: NORSKOG, SKOGKURS, the Norwegian Association of Hunters and Anglers, the Swedish Association for Hunting and Wildlife Management, STATSKOG, Glommen-Mjøsen Skog SA, The Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature, and the Norwegian Association for Mycology and Foraging.