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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Public perceptions of using forests to fuel the European bioeconomy: Findings from eight university cities

Malkamaki, Arttu; Korhonen, Jaana; Berghäll, Sami; Berg Rustas, Carolina; Bernö, Hanna; Carreira, Ariane; D'Amato, Dalia; Dobrovolsky, Alexander; Giertliová, Blanka; Holmgren, Sara; Mark-Herbert, Cecilia; Masiero, Mauro; Nagy, Emil; Navrátilová, Lenka; Pülzl, Helga; Ranacher, Lea; Secco, Laura; Suomala, Tuuli; Toppinen, Anne; Valsta, Lauri;
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The political project on bioeconomy strives to address multiple societal aspirations, namely combine economic growth with environmental sustainability in some socially acceptable manner. The contradictions between the goals and the concrete plans to increase production, processing, and consumption of forest biomass in Europe have however raised sustainability concerns within and beyond its borders. While political actors articulate such contradictions differently and compete for traction for their viewpoints in the public discourse, little is known about how citizens of urban areas perceive this discourse. Conceptualising perception as a multidimensional construct, data from eight European university cities (Bordeaux, Bratislava, Freiburg, Helsinki, Padua, St. Petersburg, Uppsala, Vienna) are statistically analysed to explore its dimensions, the communities of like-minded citizens forming across those dimensions, and the traits associating with membership in each such community. Five communities across six dimensions from biocentrism through distributional aspects to adherence to political goals are identified: adherent-environmentalist, adherent-governmentalist, critical-reformist, critical -agriculturalist, and indifferent. City of residence and perceived familiarity with bioeconomy clearly interact with perception. There is however considerable variation in communities within and across the eight cities, suggesting deeper social tension beyond the public discourse. Much of the within-community variation remains unexplained, though, calling for more work locally. Implications for forest policy are derived.


Lay perception; Legitimacy; Network analysis; Public discourse; Risk perception; Socio-technical transition

Published in

Forest Policy and Economics
2022, Volume: 140, article number: 102749