Research activities

The three main general areas of research interest for MEDFOREX are:

1. Valuation of Mediterranean forest externalities

2. Management and planning of Mediterranean forests

1. Valuation of Mediterranean forest externalities
There has been an incipient work over the last few years on valuing different aspects of Mediterranean forests beyond market price observation. As detected in the Inventory task co-ordinated by Prof. Maurizio Merlo and undertaken under the previous MEDFOREX program, there is no unified protocol in the procedures and the objects of valuation are very divers and partial. One of the conclusions of the mentioned inventory task is that a more systematic approach to Mediterranean forest valuation would be most useful. In the previous MEDOFREX several methodological approaches were already tested, particularly the contingent valuation method and choice experiments. Especially for Spain, the value of given forest projects and the marginal value of some forest attributes (different types of recreation activities, erosion prevention, CO2 sequestration, risk of fires) were estimated. However, a more comprehensive approach to value the different types of forests is still missing. This can be achieved by direct valuation and also by transferring values obtained in different contexts. Finally, some improvements were made in analyzing the equity implications of forest policies, but a full assessment is still needed.

The objectives of the next MEDFOREX phase want to be a step forward in filling those gaps and more specifically, for this area of research we will seek:
• To write a protocol for good practice in valuing forest goods and services
• To obtain the whole value of given amounts of different types of Mediterranean forests
• To obtain marginal values of some of the main attributes of the different types of Mediterranean forests
• To identify the good practices for transferring values from valued forest to other forests
• To further test transferability of values among types of Mediterranean forests
• To update the inventory of externalities in Mediterranean countries identified in the first phase of MEDFOREX

2. Management and planning of Mediterranean forests
Management and planning of Mediterranean forests can be a very complex problem because of their multifunctional nature and fragility. There is an increasing awareness of the impacts of extractive activities on the Mediterranean natural systems that provide habitat for wildlife, hydrological filtering, erosion control and other ecosystem services. The ecological values must be safeguarded even as we extract the tangible products from these natural systems. During the first phase of MEDFOREX much effort was put to develop growth and yield models for specific Mediterranean forest types (uneven-aged and mixed forest stands) which are critical to predict the economic, ecological and social outcomes of a given forest management schedule. During the next phase of MEDFOREX, simulation tools based on those models will be used to demonstrate their application for assessing the impacts of decision-making in forest management and planning. Emphasis will be on the development of new Mediterranean ecosystem management heuristics that may take advantage of the combined potential of multi-attribute decision methods and numerical optimization techniques. These heuristics will enable producing landscape-level management options with direct linkages to smaller spatial units e.g. stand-level considerations. Combinatorial optimization heuristic techniques will be used to formulate forested landscape structural objectives that are correlated with biodiversity and ecological functioning, with recreation or nature conservation values, and with forest fire risk issues. The new heuristics will thus be able to address a wide range of Mediterranean forest ecosystem management problems. Therefore they will become a powerful decision tool to end-users ranging from small private forest landowner to public administration. Their feedback will be also critical for developing new technology for advanced Mediterranean ecosystem management decision support.

The specific objectives of the area will be:
• To develop new risk assessment models to integrate forest fires issues into the decision making process of forest management planning

• To develop and apply multi-objective optimization techniques for multifunctional Mediterranean forest management planning

• To develop computer tools that integrates simulation models, optimization techniques as well as innovative presentation techniques to support decision making in Mediterranean forest management and planning

• To integrate equity considerations in cost-benefit analysis