Special Project on World Forests, Society and Environment (IUFRO-WFSE)

WFSE is an open, global, network of scientists, experts and practitioners. It provides an independent platform for broad participation and collaboration. WFSE supports sustainable forest-related development, livelihoods and inclusive growth as well as related policy processes through international collaboration in knowledge generation and exchange.

WFSE focuses on topics recognised by the scientific community as important and having significant policy implications but appear not to be receiving adequate attention from the policy community. WFSE addresses such topics in a holistic, interdisciplinary manner, producing science-based, future-oriented, policy-relevant information mainly focusing on two main efforts:  1) collating, critically analysing, and synthesising existing scientific knowledge on topics of international relevance in the forest, society, and environment interface in order to draw out important lessons learned and recommendations and 2) undertaking new research to fill in crucial gaps in existing knowledge.

WFSE produces and disseminates scientific publications, policy and information briefs, and capacity-building materials. Important science-based findings are presented in international forest-related meetings and conferences and disseminated to a wide audience of scientists, policy-makers and opinion leaders, professionals, and the public, including educational programs and organisations involved in forestry development activities.

All interested individuals and organisations are welcome to collaborate and contribute to the project's activities. The main criterion for accepting contributions is the scientific quality of the work. WFSE is coordinated at the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke).

WFSE gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland as well as the support and in-kind contributions of all IUFRO-WFSE partner organisations.

IUFRO-WFSE sponsors:

IUFRO-WFSE partners:

Current Activities

Forests and people in global transformational changes

WFSE has initiated a new phase that will result in an open access publication with the tentative title Forests and people in global transformational changes.

As a response to societal attempts to reach global environmental, biodiversity and social goals significant transformations are unfolding or envisaged to occur, for example, in how we produce and consume food and energy, in the availability and disbursement of finance for climate and nature, and in the generation, access and use of data on land and social behaviour. These changes are related to technological innovations and changes in values. They will influence how forests are managed, used and conserved, and will impact forest-dependent people’s livelihoods and cultures. International conflicts and wars threaten food production, restrict access to forests and forest use and will distort the availability of agricultural products and their markets. Violence and crime in forest-rich landscapes threaten people’s livelihoods and social wellbeing. Demographic transitions, poverty and food insecurity will stimulate mobility and migration, impacting forests and people in the areas experiencing demographic change, emigration and immigration. Changes are unfolding in a closely connected global economic system in which governments and multinational companies compete for power and resources. At the same time, different and often incompatible values, ideologies and world views and knowledges persist.

Transformational / transformative changes are both in research and policy generally understood as referring to major structural, fundamental, systemic or radical changes taking place within cultural, political, technological, economic, social and/or environmental spheres. In global environmental policy processes transformative change has been defined as “a fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values” (IPBES 2019).

This book aims to explore transformative changes within different realms and examine how they relate to and affect forests and people, the pathways though which the impacts on forest and people will likely unfold, the nature of these impacts and their justice and equity implications. The chapters of the book will analyse and discuss transformations in relation to e.g., agriculture and food systems; conservation; climate change mitigation and adaptation; energy; finance and investment; displacement, mobility and demographic transition; health; values, ideas, ideologies discourses; governance of markets; governance and competition over power and resources; and technology, data and knowledge.

The project is coordinated in Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) and it brings together scientists and experts from international research and development organizations and universities from different parts of the world.

Latest WFSE Publications

Balancing interests and approaches for equitable, just and sustained forest restoration

This policy brief presents some of the main messages and conclusions from the book Restoring Forests and Trees for Sustainable Development: Policies, Practices, Impacts, and the Ways Forward. The book will be published by Oxford University Press and it will be available as an open access publication in mid-2024.

Available for download here.   

Forest Landscape Restoration for Climate Nature and People

White Paper launched during GLF Climate, Glasgow, 8 November 2021.

Download English version - Spanish version

Forest tenure and the Sustainable Development Goals – A critical view

Pia Katila, Constance McDermott, Anne Larson, Safia Aggarwal and Lukas Giessen

The article can be downloaded here.

The newest WFSE book SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS: THEIR IMPACTS ON FORESTS AND PEOPLE was published by Cambridge University Press and is available as Open Access via Cambridge Core:


New comprehensive assessment of potential and anticipated impacts of efforts towards attaining the different SDGs on forests and forest-related livelihoods and development:


Sustainable Development Goals: Their Impacts on Forests and People 

Forests provide vital ecosystem services crucial to human well-being and sustainable development, and have an important role to play in achieving the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations 2030 Agenda. Little attention, however, has yet focused on how efforts to achieve the SDGs will impact forests and forest-related livelihoods, and how these impacts may, in turn, enhance or undermine the contributions of forests to climate and development. Understanding the potential impacts of SDGs on forests and forest-related livelihoods and development as well as the related trade-offs and synergies is crucial for the efforts undertaken to reach these goals. It is especially important for reducing potential negative impacts and to leverage opportunities to create synergies that will ultimately determine whether comprehensive progress towards the SDGs will be made.

This book discusses the conditions that influence how SDGs are implemented and prioritized, and provides a systematic, multidisciplinary global assessment of interlinkages among the SDGs and their targets, increasing understanding of potential synergies and unavoidable trade-offs between goals from the point of view of forests and people. Ideal for academic researchers, students and decision-makers interested in sustainable development in the context of forests, this book will provide invaluable knowledge for efforts undertaken to reach the SDGs.

The assessment was undertaken by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations’ Special Project World Forests, Society and Environment (IUFRO WFSE). It involved 120 scientists and experts from 60 different universities and research and development institutions as well as 38 scientists who acted as peer reviewers of the different SDG chapters. The development and publication of the book and policy brief were made possible by the financial contributions of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and the Natural Resources Institute Finland.

The chapters of the book can be downloaded here.

The Policy brief Harnessing forests for the Sustainable Development Goals: Building synergies and mitigating trade-offs was launched at an in international seminar organized jointly by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland (MFA) and IUFRO WFSE on 21 November 2019 In Helsinki Finland.

Available for download here.       

This article can be downloaded here.

Special Issue: Shifting global development discourses - Implications for forests and livelihoods

This Special Issue in the International Forestry Review brings together 12 papers and an Editorial. It focuses on forest development discourses while taking into consideration broader development, climate change and conservation discourses. The papers place special attention on the drivers that lead to the emergence of the forest discourses and how they are reflected in forest policy, administration, management and forest development support.

The Special Issue confirms that forest development discourses are diverse, changing, and allow for the exploration of new options and opportunities for forest development initiatives. Each of the forest development discourses have clear linkages with major societal and environmental issues and thus with higher level meta- or even macro-discourses. The papers provide rich insights into current forest development thinking, and also into how this thinking is transmitted and shared. The papers also offer some glimpses into how contemporary forest development discourses influence what multiple actors do to regulate, administer and implement forest development.

The articles of the Special Issue can be downloaded here.

Building on synergies: Harnessing community and smallholder forestry for Sustainable Development Goals

This policy brief builds to a large degree on the work carried out by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations Special Project World Forests, Society and Environment (IUFRO-WFSE), and especially the following two publications:

Available for download here.       

Incentives and Constraints of Community and Smallholder Forestry

This Special Issue includes nine case study articles and an editorial. The papers draw on case studies from tropical Latin America, Africa, and Asia. They analyse community and smallholder efforts to achieve different forest related objectives and outcomes stemming from these efforts. They examine in-depth a number of relevant topics, such as the conditions shaping forest dependency, mechanisms through which rural livelihoods can be improved through forests, and implications for forest outcomes, when forests are targeted to support people's livelihoods, while also providing local and global environmental services. These concerns are of high relevance to debates exploring potential synergies and trade-offs between sustainable development and climate change. The articles link together two strands of the debate on community forestry by examining both local communities' and smallholders' dependency on forests and the contribution of forests to development.

The articles of the special issues are accessible at: http://www.mdpi.com/journal/forests/special_issues/community_smallholder#published

Issue Brief: Management of natural tropical forests for the future

Available for download in English.

Forests under pressure – Local responses to global issues

Katila, P., Galloway, G., de Jong, W., Pacheco, P., Mery, G. (eds.). 2014. Forests under pressure – Local responses to global issues. IUFRO World Series Volume 32. Vienna. 561p.

ISBN 978-3-902762-30-6

Building on 27 case studies from different parts of the world the book focuses on conditions that foster or hinder progress towards SFM and forest-related development. The case studies use a common analytical framework of prerequisite conditions to examine the implementation of SFM. The analysis allows distinguishing prerequisite conditions and combinations of conditions that foster or constrain progress towards SFM and sustainable local development, and the interactions among these conditions.

The chapters of the book can be downloaded here.

The complete publication is available for download here.

Issue Brief: Synergistic policies and measures are the key to advancing sustainable forest management and forest-based development

Available for download in:

Previous Publications

Policy Brief: Making Boreal Forests Work for People and Nature

(Policy brief 2012References)

Desafíos de los bosques amazónicos y oportunidades para el manejo forestal comunitario

Wil de Jong y Gerardo Mery (editores). 2011. CIAS Discussion Paper 20, IUFRO Occasional Paper 25. 55 p. ISBN 978-3-902762-11-5.

Available for download here

Policy brief: Making forests work for people and nature – Responding to global drivers of change.

Available for download in:
English, French and Spanish

Forest and Society – Responding to Global Drivers of Change

Mery, G., Katila, P., Galloway, G., Alfaro, R.I., Kanninen, M., Lobovikov, M. and Varjo, J. (eds.). 2010. IUFRO World Series Volume 25. Vienna. 509 p.
ISBN 978-3-901347-93-1

The chapters of the book can be downloaded here.

Summary presentations of the different chapters of the book can be downloaded here.

Asian Forests: Working for People and Nature. Policy Brief.

Available for download here.

Making Sub-Saharan Forests Work for People and Nature

(Policy brief 2009 - References)


Making Latin American Forests Work for People and Nature

(Policy Brief in English and Spanish - 2009)

Making European Forests Work for People and Nature

(Policy Brief 2007)

Forests in the Global Balance – Changing Paradigms

Gerardo Mery, René Alfaro, Markku Kanninen, Maxim Lobovikov (eds.). 2005.
IUFRO World Series Volume 17. Helsinki. 318 p.

ISBN 3-901347-55-0 ISSN 1016-3263

Summaries of "Forests in the Global Balance" chapters as Capacity Building Material, 2006

Policy Brief in 3 languages, 2005

  • Policy Brief: Forests for the New Millennium – making forests work for people and nature
  • Énoncé de politique: Des Forêts pour le Noveau Millénaire – des forêts à gérer dans l’intérêt des gens et la nature
  • Resumen de políticas: Bosques para el Nuevo Milenio – Bosques que beneficien a la gente y sustenten la naturaleza