Concept notes

Forest-food nexus: a topical opportunity for human well-being and silviculture


As population will reach over 9 billion by 2050, interest in the forest-food nexus is rising. Forests play an important role in food production and nutrition. Forests can provide nutritionally-balanced diets, woodfuel for cooking and a broad set of ecosystem services. A large body of evidence recommends multi-functional and integrated landscape approaches to reimagine forestry and agriculture systems. Here, after a commented discussion of the literature produced in the last decade about the role for forests with respect to the food security global emergency, we summarize the state of the art in Italy as a representative country-case-study. The aim is to increase awareness about the potential of silviculture in Italy for combining ecological resilience with economic resilience, and reducing the pressure over tropical and sub-tropical forests by means of a sustainable intensification of forest management at national level. Although a quantification of the Italian non-wood forest products is difficult, the potential of this sector for the Italian bioeconomy is relatively high. Italy is among the four top European exporters of cork stoppers, is one of the three top countries for chestnut seed processing, and is among the leading exporters of wild mushroom, while it is the only European country among the top five global importers of tannins. In order to develop this sector for the food industry, more research is needed on non-wood forest products, the scale of production, emerging markets, marketing and production innovation. On the other hand, chain-supply fragmentation, landowner inertia, and lack of governance and cooperation may hamper an effective exploitation of non-wood products. A renewed joint impulse for exploitation of wood and non-wood products may come from a sustainable intensification of forest management. The strategies to guarantee an effective supply of non-wood products require appropriate business skills and the presence of a structured business services. A transparent market is also essential. Therefore, the introduction of standards (like those by forest certification schemes) is very important. They can add value to products and emphasize the importance and complexity of the forest sector. However, the implementation of sustainable forest management for an effective supply of non-wood products is affected by the availability of appropriate planning tools, and the public officers need a new mindset to stimulate and support business capacity of forest owners.


Forest; Food; Silviculture; Security; Safety

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