Our research focuses on understanding interactions between people and nature in a broad sense and with a specific focus on forests. We aim to generate knowledge that enriches the social-environmental sciences and inspires society to tackle major environmental and socioeconomic challenges. We contribute to sustainability transitions that are responsive to multifaceted societal demands. We embrace theoretical and methodological pluralism, working with concepts originating from the political sciences, sociology, anthropology, and human geography, and enjoy collaboration across disciplines to address wicked problems. Our research takes place in locations all over the world, from the local to the global level.
Our work is organised around three research themes that are connected to three critical interconnected 'spheres' of forest and nature conservation:
How forests and nature are valued, used, managed, and governed depends on a broad range of worldviews, interests and ways of knowing connected to actors, policies and institutions. Clashing ideas and interests result in political struggles that often involve unequal power relations. This research theme addresses the ‘politics of governance’ and explores how major paradigms, discourses, institutions and interests play out in policy making. We are also studying impacts policies have, from global to local levels, including the ways in which local people defy or adopt policy interventions and the difference these make to forests and nature.
Forest and nature-based economies are crucial for human development and welfare, as well as for global land use patterns interwoven with environmental and social challenges such as deforestation or displacement of smallholders. This theme analyses the interplay of markets and policies along forest landscape related value chains, focusing on people, from local producers to end consumers, who are often located in different global contexts. The issues covered here include not only global product value chains such as timber and agrofood, but also markets for ecosystem services, such as climate mitigation or biodiversity conservation. A specific focus is on how local land managers – while adapting to multiple demands and drivers – respond in their land use practices, and the socio-economic and environmental consequences thereof.
This theme explores the ways in which humans enact their relationships with nature and the implications for the governance and management of nature. This includes understanding peoples’ conceptualisations of experiences in nature and values attributed to nature, individual and collective stewardship practices in urban and non-urban contexts and peoples’ motivations to participate in the stewardship of biocultural diversity and contribute to transformative change. Topics range from social conflicts to social innovations, community-based conservation, cultural and spiritual connections to nature, digital conservation and co-creation practices in the fields of nature conservation, restoration, area-based conservation, wildlife, rewilding and renaturing cities.