Innovative tools for sustainable joint forest management

Forest exploitation
Forest exploitation

Forest services and users must be taken into account to ensure forests are exploited in environmentally, socially and economically sustainable conditions. The OUI-GEF project, funded by the PSDR Rhône-Alpes program and led by the LESSEM unit at Irstea Grenoble, provides innovative tools designed in partnership with regional stakeholders to create a shared and cohesive forest management process.

Forest ecosystems fulfill many functions, such as biodiversity conservation, timber production, natural hazard protection and leisure activity facilities. These functions are sometimes subject to conflicting management issues that can result in conflicts between regional stakeholders. As part of the OUIGEF project, scientists from the LESSEM unit at Irstea Grenoble and their partners looked at how to reconcile these issues and create appropriate conditions for integrated and viable forest management. Their aim was to develop and validate innovative technical and organizational tools to promote a combined multi-stakeholder forest management approach.

To this end, the project ran in three test regions - the regional natural parks in Bauges, Chartreuse and Pilat - and focused on three major problems for forest management: evaluating forest resources and ecosystem services, resource usage conditions and knowledge sharing. Using a variety of study approaches, the recently completed project resulted in the creation of a toolbox that can be used by both stakeholders and managers.

Forest biodiversity
© J-J. Brun / Irstea
Forest exploitation
© PNR Bauges
Rockfalls in forests
© M. Fuhr / Irstea
Forest multifunctionality (logging, protecting against rockfalls, conserving biodiversity)

Tools to improve resource estimates and services provided

In order to improve estimates of available resources across a region, one of the project’s partners, the French National Forest Office, used airborne LiDAR (laser imaging) technology. The images obtained and the methods developed to analyze them were used to map forest stands and extract essential parameters for forest management, such as the average height or diameter of trees, basal area, or the location of large trees. “We were therefore able to acquire uniquely accurate, continuous map-based information for the overflown areas. We were also able to technically improve the analysis models for forest data gathered from LiDAR images,” explains Marc Fuhr, LESSEM researcher and project leader.

The new data enabled Irstea scientists to study the services provided by forests in greater detail. By incorporating LiDAR data into rockfall trajectory simulation models developed by Irstea, they were able to create maps of forests in specific regions (departments, regional natural parks) that play a protective role against rockfalls. In response to biodiversity conservation issues and the aim of maintaining deadwood reserves in particular,1 they developed a protocol for identifying mature or old-growth forests that encourage animal and plant species that feed on dead wood.

Incorporating the social sciences to promote cohesive usage

To encourage communication between stakeholders and users, the project partners looked at exploitation practices (tree felling). Tested with stakeholders from the regions studied, they designed a tool that provides a combined evaluation of all the functions of a specific forest prior to any exploitation. The framework is mainly based on the potential impact of tree removal or a comparison of various types of felling. It can be used to assess the relevance of economic, environmental and social criteria for the forest and as a result, foster agreement on management practices to be implemented.

In parallel, the behavior of private forest owners, who are important participants in forest management, was analyzed to identify their motivation in cutting their trees. Although sociological studies have been performed in the past, an original method linking the sociodemographic data of landowners (age, gender, income, etc.) with biophysical data from their forest plots (types of tree species, altitude, topography, plot orientation) was developed as part of the OUI-GEF project. “Results for the study region provide good insight into the factors that motivate landowners to use their wood. This type of information can help local communities target or prioritize incentive policies for forest exploitation,” notes Fuhr.

Tools to distribute and share forest knowledge

The OUI-GEF project resulted in several knowledge distribution tools, including an online educational game, Le Jeu du Bois [Wood Game], which aims to raise awareness among the general public of the creation of a sustainable method of using wood as a source of renewable energy.

A geographical catalog of forest data was also created for professionals. A unique document, the georeferenced database, is available online and will be continually updated. It combines data produced by the various local stakeholders involved in forest management, such as managers, researchers, environmental protection groups, etc. Additionally, the catalog is supported by a user guide for the data, adapted to specific problems that managers and other stakeholders might face. Whether for creating deadwood reserves, designing a cabling plan to extract timber, organizing a major sporting event or even creating a short supply chain for wood fuel, the tool points users towards useful data and the best way of using it.


OUI-GEF project profile

  • Name: Innovative tools for joint forest management (OUI-GEF)
  • Dates: 2015-2019
  • Coordinator: Irstea, LESSEM unit, Marc Fuhr
  • Budget: €660,000
  • PSDR funding: INRA, Auvergne Rhône-Alpes Region, Irstea, European Union (EAFRD, EIP-AGRI)
  • Partners: LESSEM RU, Espace JRU, Edytem JRU, Rhône-Alpes Regional Center of Forest Properties, Institute for Forest Development, National Forest Office, Chartreuse Regional Nature Park, Massif des Bauges Regional Nature Park, Pilat Regional Nature Park


Biomass conversion: the cornerstone of bioeconomics

Bioeconomics is based on using living resources such as biomass from forests to ensure our food, energy and construction requirements are met while still limiting our impact on the environment.

France launched its bioeconomics strategy in January 2018. In October 2018, the European Union reviewed its strategy to highlight the need for a sustainable and circular bioeconomy.

To identify the research needed to create a sustainable bioeconomy that incorporates the finite limitations of the planet, INRA, Irstea and IFPEN, in partnership with the French Ministries of Agriculture and Food, Higher Education, Research and Innovation, Ecological and Solidarity Transition and the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture are organizing a European workshop on bioeconomics in Paris on October 29 and 30, 2019.

Further information

1- Deadwood reserves are used to preserve saproxylic and cavity biodiversity (species who live in and move through decaying wood).