Indicators and Tools for Assessing Sustainability Impacts of the Forest Bioeconomy.
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CitationKarvonen Jaakko. Halder Pradipta. Kangas Jyrki. Leskinen Pekka. (2017). Indicators and Tools for Assessing Sustainability Impacts of the Forest Bioeconomy.. Forest Ecosystems, 4 (2) , 10.1186/s40663-017-0089-8.
The sustainable use of renewable resources has become an important issue worldwide in the move towards a less fossil-fuel-intensive future. Mainstream method for fulfilling this aim is to increase the share of renewable energy and materials to substitute fossil fuels and to become fully independent from fossil fuels over the long-term. However, the environmental sustainability of this endeavor has been questioned. In addition, economic and social sustainability issues are also much debated topics in this particular context. Forest resources are often thought to contribute partially to achieving a so-called “carbon-neutral society”. In this review, we discuss sustainability issues of using forest biomass. We present several sustainability indicators for ecological, economic and social dimensions and discuss the issues in applying them in sustainability impact assessments (SIAs). We also present a number of tools and methods previously used in conducting SIAs. We approach our study from the perspective of the Finnish forestry; in addition, various aspects regarding the application of SIAs in a broader context are also presented. One of the key conclusions of the study is that although sufficient data are available to measure many indicators accurately, the impacts may be very difficult to assess (e.g. impact of greenhouse gases on biodiversity) for conducting a holistic SIA. Furthermore, some indicators, such as “biodiversity”, are difficult to quantify in the first place. Therefore, a mix of different methods, such as Multi-criteria Assessment, Life-cycle Assessment or Cost-Benefit Analysis, as well as different approaches (e.g. thresholds and strong/weak sustainability) are needed in aggregating the results of the impacts. SIAs are important in supporting and improving the acceptability of decision-making, but a certain degree of uncertainty will always have to be tolerated.