Engaging with stakeholders for spiritual ecosystem services

The SINCERE case studies strengthen the connection between people and the forest as a way of supporting long-term, sustainable forest management whilst assuring a return on investment.

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Photo: SINCERE

Forests are key for society and understanding the importance and the functioning of ecosystem services is fundamental for the healthy and sustainable development of that society in balance with nature. The SINCERE project’s Swiss Innovation Action (IA) case study strengthens the connection between people and the forest, looking at spiritual forests and forest kindergartens as a way of supporting long-term, sustainable forest management whilst assuring a return on investment.

The second Multi-Actor Group meeting for the Swiss case study took place on 23 April 2019 in Olten, Switzerland. The second meeting was designed as a small meeting with selected national, cantonal and local stakeholders. An expert group of forest scientists, representatives of forest administration and of NGOs as well as representatives from the IA attended.

The meeting was structured in a way as to facilitate discussion on the general context and challenges within a Swiss context on one hand, and to detect the specific local needs and opportunities on the other hand. Integrated in the meeting were several round-tour-speakouts in order to collect different input and experiences from the different levels. Part of the workshop was also a valuation of sustainability criteria and dimensions.

The focus of the discussion was on challenges and opportunities and – based on these findings – consequences for further action. Participants identified that synergies with other activities of the forest enterprise and synergies with communication with local forest stakeholders are an important opportunity. The need for further education and training on the topic remains a challenge.

Forest owners and forest enterprises often are modest actors. In order to harness the significant potential of forest ecosystem services (FES), it is important to understand the communication function of markets. Different FES should be systematically presented and valorised in the portfolio of forest enterprises. Furthermore, foresters and forest owners have to get out of the forest and communicate with different social actor groups: continuous communication remains at the heart of sustainable partnerships.

Based on the discussions and experiences so far, further steps and procedures were defined, and two levels of implementation are contemplated. On one hand, implementation within the IA foresees a specific evaluation of selected trees and interviews with clients at local level. Secondly, knowledge transfer at national level is required and will lead to the development of fact sheets for interested forest actors while, in a national seminar, findings and experiences will be presented to a broader public.

Spurring INnovations for forest eCosystem sERvices in Europe (SINCERE) responds to society’s demands for services from forests, such as recreation, biodiversity protection and carbon storage. The 4-year project looks at innovative ways to value and implement such forest ecosystem services through the development of novel policies and new business models, connecting knowledge and expertise from practice, science and policy, across Europe and beyond. SINCERE is funded through the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, coordinated by the European Forest Institute.