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Research article2010Peer reviewedOpen access

Multi-stakeholder collaboration in Russian and Swedish model forest initiatives : adaptive governance toward sustainable forest management?

Elbakidze, Marine; Angelstam, Per; Axelsson, Robert


Building the adaptive capacity of interlinked social and ecological systems is assumed to improve implementation of sustainable forest management (SFM) policies. One mechanism is collaborative learning by continuous evaluation, communication, and transdisciplinary knowledge production. The Model Forest (MF) concept, developed in Canada, is intended to encourage all dimensions of sustainable development through collaboration among stakeholders of forest resources in a geographical area. Because the MF approach encompasses both social and ecological systems, it can be seen as a process aimed at improving adaptive capacity to deal with uncertainty and change. We analyzed multi-stakeholder approaches used in four MF initiatives representing social-ecological systems with different governance legacies and economic histories in the northwest of the Russian Federation (Komi MF and Pskov MF) and in Sweden (Vilhelmina MF and the Foundation Safsen Forests in the Bergslagen region). To describe the motivations behind development of the initiative and the governance systems, we used qualitative open-ended interviews and analyzed reports and official documents. The initial driving forces for establishing new local governance arrangements were different in all four cases. All MFs were characterized by multilevel and multi-sector collaboration. However, the distribution of power among stakeholders ranged from clearly top down in the Russian Federation to largely bottom up in Sweden. All MF initiatives shared three main challenges: (a) to develop governance arrangements that include representative actors and stakeholders, (b) to combine top-down and bottom-up approaches to governance, and (c) to coordinate different sectors' modes of landscape governance. We conclude that, in principle, the MF concept is a promising approach to multi-stakeholder collaboration. However, to understand the local and regional dimensions of sustainability, and the level of adaptability of such multi-stakeholder collaboration initiatives, empirical studies of outcomes are needed. To assess the adaptive capacity, the states and trends of economic, ecological, social, and cultural dimensions in actual landscapes need to be linked to how the multistakeholder collaboration develops and performs over the long term.


boreal forest; landscape; multi-level collaboration; sustainability; sustainable development

Published in

Ecology and Society
2010, Volume: 15, number: 2