Application of multi criteria analysis methods for a participatory assessment of non-wood forest products in two European case studies
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CitationHuber, P. Hujala, T. Kurttila, M. Wolfslehner, B. Vacik, H. (2019). Application of multi criteria analysis methods for a participatory assessment of non-wood forest products in two European case studies. Forest policy and economics, 103, 103-111. 10.1016/j.forpol.2017.07.003.
With the advent of the European bioeconomy and a shift in lifestyle among European citizens, non-wood forest products (NWFPs) are given more attention in the public debate. Their potential to strengthen the economic viability of rural economies appears to be high, particularly in regions where wood is not the most profitable forest product. However, information on NWFP production potentials are scarce and tools to support forest owners in decision making about NWFP management are rarely available. Considering the complex relationships between a sustained production of NWFPs, the use of the available ecological resources, as well as the organizational and the market potential of forest management regimes, we introduce a knowledge-based expert model for supporting NWFP management. In a mixed-method approach qualitative and quantitative techniques are combined to depict regional production and business potentials of NWFPs, explicitly addressing different environmental and socio-economic contexts. For the model building multi-criteria analysis methods were used for preference elicitations in an iterative form, including stakeholders and experts. Within two distinct case study settings (i.e. Austria and Finland) the expert model is tested for applicability and to depict the most suitable option from a suite of selected NWFPs. Results for both case studies well reflect current NWFP business potentials and provide insights to the opportunities of mixing more resilient and more risky NWFPs to a solid regional business portfolio, fostering the co-production of wood and non-wood resources. The approach presented has a potential to steer the mindset of different forest owner types to critically revise their interests in forest management. It could act as an eye-opener for forestry-oriented stakeholders who have not yet considered NWFPs as potential assets in forest management systems. With its ability to include various NWFPs and to consider different forest owner preferences, future applications can be tailored towards the needs of both small-scale (non-industrial) forest owners and bigger forest holdings.