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A new Finnish-Chinese project started on understanding stakeholder impacts and dependencies on forest ecosystem services

As financed by targeted call by Academy of Finland and Natural Science Council in China, a three year socio-economic research project (acronym ES-GRI) on investigating the importance and role of forest ecosystem services in the context of China started in September 2013. Researchers working on ES-GRI project at University of Helsinki are doctoral student Dalia D’Amato, post doc researcher Ning Li, university lecturer Mika Rekola and professor Anne Toppinen (Principle Investigator). At Nanjing Forestry University project consortium of six researchers is lead by Dean of College of Forest Economics and Management, professor Zuomin Wen.

According to framework introduced in Millenium Ecosystem Assessment, the concept of ES classifies human-being welfare obtained from nature into four categories: provision, regulating, cultural and supporting. According to Dr. Mika Rekola “Our project aims at analyzing interaction between various forest-based ecosystem services, and dependencies and impacts of ecosystem services to forest industry and other stakeholders in contextual frame of China.” In addition, research aims to investigate the ecological, economic and social networks formed by forestry companies and other stakeholders interacting in selected forest ecosystems.
Globalization has profoundly changed trade and investment flows in global forestry with rapid growth in both consumption and investments in China, where major Finnish companies have also today a strong presence. This builds a unique set-up for studying linkages between the natural resource and business linkages between two institutionally very different countries. In the forest industry, implementing corporate responsibility has become an essential tool for maintaining social legitimacy to operate in global forestry value-chains. But how could ecosystem services be incorporated in firm’s sustainability accounting and reporting? Methodologically the research project is based on combining non-market valuation methods, sustainability assessment of corporate conduct, and qualitative case study approaches for testing the developed sustainability reporting framework on selected case forest industry companies.  

In a kick off meeting in Nanjing during September 17-21, 2013 research teams discussed scope of joint activities and planned international mobility during the next three years. One day was spent at the field trip to state-owned forestry farm nearby Nanjing to familiarize research team with the wide array of forest ecosystem services present. The next consortium meeting and seminar will be held in Helsinki in May 2014.

Figure: Tea bushes planted under the shade of Caribbean pines