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New report on future of wood supply highlights importance of innovation

As we mark the International Day of Forests (IDF) on 21 March, the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) explores how innovation is shaping the trajectory of forest management and conservation worldwide.

The theme for this year’s International Day of Forests (IDF) is “Forests and innovation – new solutions for a better world.” One of the key messages emphasizes the vital role of science and research in “pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved with wood and other forest products.”

Wood and non-timber forest products, along with their value chains, hold significant potential in advancing towards a sustainable low-carbon bioeconomy and ensuring livelihoods in rural and urban areas globally. Research, new knowledge, and professional expertise are crucial in identifying the potential role of the forest-based bioeconomy in sustainable growth and societal well-being amid global crises such as climate change.

The importance of collaboration

The climate crisis profoundly impacts forests all over the world and the far-reaching consequences of this and other challenges also affect tree species of commercial importance, and, consequently, wood supply and the wood-based industry. Addressing this issue necessitates the involvement of all stakeholders, consideration of local contexts, and the use of the best available scientific knowledge.

Against this background, the science-business platform TEAMING UP 4 FORESTS was initiated by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) and Mondi Group, a global packaging and paper company, in 2021, with the aim to better understand climate change impacts on forests and identify response measures in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

As part of this initiative, a new evidence-based synthesis report titled “Europe’s wood supply in disruptive times” was released on March 14, 2024.

The report outlines the impacts of climate change, and considers other factors, such as political uncertainties, and a fragmented forest landscape. Bridging the gap between science and application of insights, it offers insights and response measures for the wood-based industry, forest management, and policymakers, drawing from a wide range of scientific papers and stakeholder perspectives.

The report identifies several complex factors that affect wood supply and are strongly interlinked:

  • Climate change directly impacts the composition, structure and productivity of forests. Anticipated temperature increases and shifting precipitation patterns are a challenge to tree survival, health, and growth.
  • The lack of policy coherence and conflicting priorities, from biodiversity conservation to wood production, shape a policy landscape littered with hurdles.
  • Socioeconomic factors ranging from forest ownership structures to demographic shifts and geopolitical developments all contribute to the overall complexity of the topic.
  • At the same time, global markets signal a growing demand for wood-based products, mainly due to more rapid growth in developing and transitioning economies including Brazil, China and India.

The role of innovation

The report underscores the urgency and complexity of addressing the impacts of pressing challenges, like climate, and emphasizes the need for adaptation and innovation.

Emerging technologies such as biorefineries, novel process technologies and new concepts in wood construction promise increased value and support for a sustainable forest-based bioeconomy. Market forecasts project rapid expansion in engineered wood products, textiles, biorefineries and bioenergy.

These elements, supported by collaboration and technological innovation, facilitate the transition towards higher-value products, a crucial step in ensuring the long-term sustainability of the wood-based sector. Technological and digital innovations, along with cascading wood use, drive the transition towards a circular bioeconomy and enable adaptation to future changes in wood supply.

Europe’s Wood Supply in Disruptive Times

An evidence-based synthesis report
Editors: Carola Egger, Nelson Grima, Michael Kleine, Maja Radosavljevic
Authors: Metodi Sotirov, Ragnar Jonsson, Andreas Nikolaus Kleinschmit von Lengefeld, Andrey Krasovskiy, Florian Kraxner, Manfred J. Lexer, SŠ pela Pezdevšek Malovrh, Anne-Christine Ritschkoff
IUFRO World Series Volume 42. Vienna. 160 p. ISBN 978-3-903345-23-2
Published by: International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO)

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The information, opinions and recommendations presented in this article are those of the individual contributor/s, and do not necessarily reflect the values and beliefs of the International Science Council.

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