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New project seeks market solutions to support forest benefits and services

The INTERCEDE project works on enhancing forest ecosystem service provision in Europe through the development of novel policies and instruments targeted to support forest owners. 

Photo by Martin Tupy Unsplash

A new Horizon Europe project targets the potential of market-based approaches as incentives for forest owners to manage their forests to provide valuable benefits and services to society. Forest ecosystem services (FES), such as carbon removal, biodiversity protection, improved water management, and recreational services, are widely desired if not considered essential, yet they are not necessarily valued, and particularly not in monetary terms. 

The INTERCEDE project (Incentivising future forest ecosystem services and incomes in Europe), which kicked off in March 2024, aims to enhance the value of Europe’s forests to Europe’s citizens by identifying and upscaling market-based instruments, developing policy frameworks and guidelines, and reducing the gap between high-level research and policy and practice. 

Forest benefits 

Forests provide a myriad of benefits to people, from essential services such as climate mitigation, biodiversity protection and water flow regulation to highly appreciated recreation, cultural and health services. Across Europe, we are used to expect multiple benefits and services from our forests, without always realising that our demands may be conflicting or that forests might provide more such services given the chance to realise their full potential. 

Alongside complex societal demands, future supply of these benefits is significantly threatened by climate change. It is vital that we know today how supply and demand may be affected tomorrow, so that we can act now to implement appropriate management or conservation measures to support our forests to continue to supply their essential and desired services, despite the climate crisis. 

Cost challenges 

Such support does not come without a cost, however, and viable means to incentivise such measures must be found. We need forest owners to be able to take on measures to assure provision, but with no financial impetus to do so, it is beyond the scope or interest of many. Tailored incentives and incomes for forest owners to manage their forest for socially optimal FES provision, would make a huge difference. The EU Forest Strategy recognises this, yet no comprehensive information is in place that describes such schemes, let alone championing those that work. 

Photo by Phil Robson on Unsplash

INTERCEDE innovation 

INTERCEDE is breaking new ground by examining future supply and demand for FES and looking for effective Market-Based Instruments (MBI) that offer forest and land managers viable options to manage forests to provide these services. Schemes will be evaluated to find those that are adaptable and scalable, and novel and innovative models will be developed based on identified needs and opportunities. Measures that work will be widely shared, with forest owners, forest businesses and policy makers, as well as with a wider pool of sectors and society who will benefit from improved knowledge and implementation of such schemes. 

The project, which has received EUR 6 million from the European Union under the Horizon Europe Research and Innovation Programme, has a consortium of 13 project partners including small and medium-sized enterprises, landowner and environmental organisations, and researchers with skills in modelling, valuing FES, economic instrument design, governance, and policy analysis. 

At its heart, the project hosts a transdisciplinary forum that connects research with policy and practice, as it connects project partners with the people who will use and benefit from the project’s results. Policy recommendations on existing and potential schemes will provide decision makers with science-based guidance at national and EU-wide scales. A service to support start-ups and existing businesses to implement designs and business models will boost the development, outcomes and impacts of promising interventions and enable new MBIs to take flight. Future scenario modelling, rigorous impact assessment of current schemes and upscaling and replication of proven success cases underpin the multi-faceted approach to enhancing FES provision across Europe. 

As an expert in stakeholder mapping and engagement, Prospex Institute is thrilled to take on the lead of WP2 on engagement, communication and dissemination. More specifically, Prospex Institute will first carryout a stakeholder mapping on multiple levels – European, national and local – to identify the stakeholders that are relevant to the project considering its objectives and impact. The stakeholders will be then integrated in the project mainly (but not only) through the establishment of the Transdisciplinary Forums (TDFs) and the Transdisciplinary Working Groups (TDWGs), which are the main points of contact between external stakeholders and the project consortium.  

Intercede project consortium at the project’s Kick Off Meeting, Copenhagen, March 2024

“This is an ambitious project, and I am really excited to be coordinating the transdisciplinary work of colleagues from all over Europe who bring a combination of skills in cutting-edge research, policy and business development, and forest management and conservation expertise to the project,” says project coordinator, Thomas Lundhede of the University of Copenhagen. “Applying our improved design of market-based approaches to FES provision has the potential to improve cost-effectiveness of policies to the real benefit of society”.  

Indeed, if successful at the European scale it targets, the project has the potential to make a positive impact on forest owners’ income, enabling them to provide the care required for our forests to continue to provide goods and services to all of us who want and need them. Furthermore, the market-based benefits, that will fall on forest owners and actors involved on the supply side of these services, will also benefit the millions of citizens that enjoy these FES directly or indirectly and often also fund their provision in various ways. INTERCEDE is just beginning its journey to improve the outlook for FES in Europe. And in the current climate, this intervention comes not a moment too soon. 

Photo by Click and learn photography on Unsplash

The INTERCEDE project, is funded by the European Union under grant number 101135159 and runs for four years, from March 2024 – February 2028. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Research Executive Agency. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them. 



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