Conflicting demands in European Forests

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International on-site postgraduate course

Conflicting demands in European Forests

a wicked problem?

To be announced


All across Europe we see examples of areas in which various stakeholders try to use or even exploit the land such that it optimises their demands. Often times, these demands conflict between stakeholders. For instance, nature conservationists may attempt to maintain the area in a natural state, while local industry (forestry, mining, agriculture) may try to exploit the land maximally. The tourism sector, on the other hand, may wish to use the area for recreational purposes, potentially pressurizing the environment. And of course, the local community has its demands for land use.

More and more, decision makers are confronted with such conflicting demands when trying to develop sustainable land-use strategies. This may lead to a so-called wicked problem; a complex issue that defies complete definition, for which there can be no final solutions, since any resolution generates further issues, and where solutions are not true or false or good or bad, but the best that can be done at the time.

Scientists working on these wicked problems need to be trained to work in trans-, multi- and interdisciplinary teams of experts with various different scientific backgrounds, such as ecologists, economists, political, and social scientists. This course aims to teach them the skills they need for working in diverse teams, by means of a real-life case. 

The idea of this course is to bring PhD candidates and postdocs from various countries and cultural backgrounds, and working in different scientific disciplines but related to European forests, together in a professional on-site training course. As multidisciplinary teams, we will introduce them to the various stakeholders, and allow them to collect necessary data that can help them to ultimately present a sustainable, long-term land-use strategy for the case study area or for a representative area elsewhere in Europe.

Course set-up (of last edition)

The course is planned to run for 9 days. It starts in the late afternoon with welcome drinks, followed by introductory poster pitches of the participants, and concluded by an opening lecture about the general theme and aims of the course. Then, from Monday until Saturday there will be lectures in the morning on specific topics by experts of the partner institutes and/or from outside. Lectures will cover all interdisciplinary aspects related to conflicting demands in land-use. From forests and forest management in Europe to social and sustainability aspects, as well as economics, industrial innovation and governance. In the afternoons, participants will work in small teams on a specific group work assignment. This will allow participants to link their theoretical knowledge with real-life challenges, aimed at finding solutions for the issues of our times!

The international experts will be present for most or all of the course to interact with the participants and to provide input for the group assignment. In the evenings, there may be some leisure lectures by invited speakers or local stakeholders. On Sunday, there will be no official programme, and people can explore the region a bit more. Then, on Monday, the group projects are finalised. On the last morning, the course is concluded by presentations of the group work, followed by a general wrap-up of the course and evaluation of the course aims. Finally, after a goodbye lunch, all can make their way home.

During the course, several excursions and field visits are planned to various stakeholders, and into the local area, to allow for interaction and exchange of ideas with the stakeholders, and to illustrate the challenges faced with regards to the conflicting demands that are at hand.

Preliminary lecture topics
  • General lecture about conflicting demands (in forestry)
  • General framework lecture about the trade-offs in forests. Forests can’t deliver everything at the same time
  • Forest/Land as a resource
  • Future perspectives in the forest sector
  • Governance lecture – decision-making processes
  • Management aspects: should we manage for biodiversity? / Natural nature
  • Economical perspectives
  • Social perspectives
  • Lecture on participatory research – decision-making tools (wicked problems / companion modelling)
  • ....
General information
Target Group The course is aimed at PhD candidates, postdocs and other academics
Group Size Min. 15 / Max. 30 participants
Course duration To be determined
Language of instruction English
Frequency of recurrence Every two years
Number of credits To be determined
Lecturers To be determined
Fee To be determined
Location To be determined


More information

Claudius van de Vijver (PE&RC)
Phone: +31 (0) 317 485116



At this moment, this course is not scheduled yet. However, if you register your interest in this activity below, we will inform you as soon as the course is scheduled and registration of participation is opened.