Category: Biosphere reserves

Coming in 2024 – Deliberative mini-public in Voxnadalen Biosphere Reserve

In autumn 2024, LANDPATHS will collaborate with the Voxnadalen Biosphere Reserve to test a new method for involving citizens in research on multifunctional landscapes. Fanny Möckel, doctoral student at Uppsala University and a researcher in the sub-project Barriers and Opportunities for Change, tells us a little more about the planned ‘Deliberative mini-public’.

What would a multifunctional landscape in Voxnadalen look like in the future? Based on the conversations about this question at the LANDPATHS stakeholder workshop series, the next step is discussing the priorities in the biosphere reserve with citizens. This process will be led by myself and Tim Daw (Stockholm Resilience Centre), in collaboration with the Voxnadalen Biosphere Reserve.

Citizen engagement in sustainable planning

There are many ways to engage citizens, but LANDPATHS wants to try a new method. We will use a deliberative mini-public, which involves a randomly selected group of citizens taking part in moderated discussions in small groups on a topic of common interest. This method differs from other forms of citizen engagement, enabling participants to deliberate on ideas and proposals in more depth. There are several different formats, such as a citizen panel or a citizen jury, which have been used in several countries to discuss complex issues, including sustainable development and climate change.

Group of people

In a deliberative mini-public, citizens are selected according to criteria that ensure a broad representation of the public in a small group. Over 2-3 days, citizens hear different perspectives, opinions, and expert knowledge, and then discuss the issue in depth. The process usually concludes with a common conclusion or recommendations. Citizens are compensated financially for their participation in the process.

How should the biosphere reserve develop?

Key aspects of this process are that citizens discuss a topic that affects and concerns them, and that the outcome has the potential to influence decision-making and action related to the issue. The deliberative mini-public in Voxnadalen will focus on the future development of the biosphere reserve.

The Voxnadalen biosphere reserve coordination team has committed to integrating the results of the mini-public into the forthcoming development plan for the reserve.

Planning for the deliberative mini-public is now underway – keep an eye on the blog for more updates, or contact Fanny for more information.

Bird in a tree

The UNESCO Voxnadalen Biosphere Reserve spans an area of 342,00 ha in Hälsingland and Dalarna. Read more at This article is a summary of ‘Medborgarberedning i Biosfärområde Voxnadalen’, written by Fanny Möckel in the magazine ‘Det händer I Biosfärområde Voxnadalen – Information om Biosfärområde Voxnadalen 2023’, p.15.

Forest landscapes – three workshops completed in Voxnadalen Biosphere Reserve

In 2023, LANDPATHS researchers ran a series of three workshops in Voxnadalen Biosphere Reserve. The aim was to bring a wide range of stakeholders together to talk about their future visions of multifunctional forest landscapes.  Sara Holmgren (SLU) and Max Whitman (Uppsala University) tell us more.

Before the workshop series, we had two hopes. Firstly, we wanted to facilitate meaningful discussions about the forest landscape and its future. Secondly, we wanted to have exploratory conversations that would lead to concrete ideas that participants would be willing and able to develop further. By creating a conversational space grounded in respect and curiosity for different perspectives, we laid a solid foundation for both social learning and innovation-promoting processes.

Stakeholders discussing at a workshop
Participants at the first workshop. Photo: Thao Do.

The collaboration between LANDPATHS and the biosphere reserve provides us with a unique opportunity to explore how global challenges related to land use can be addressed locally in a way that benefits biodiversity, builds resilience against climate change, and contributes to social and economic development.

The hope is to take the insights generated through all the conversations and weave them into one or more focused projects that can be implemented locally. Themes that participants have returned to include quality timber production and its value chains, alternative forms of biodiversity-promoting measures, and collaborative planning across property boundaries. These themes have many aspects, but there is potential for many positive synergies among them.

Here are some reflections from some of the participants about their own experiences from the process:

“There have been interesting questions where actors from different areas within forestry can share their views on the forest as a resource, sustainability, and local collaboration. Most importantly for us is that the meetings between people spark creativity and new ways of thinking, which we intend to implement in parts of our own operations, along with the hope for new constellations and collaborations.”

Filip Hedberg, Top Branch Sweden / Björnsafari i Hälsingland

“Participating has given me ample opportunities to meet people with different perspectives on forestry, climate, and biodiversity. I believe it has provided me with new knowledge and, above all, new paths to consensus and understanding.”

Sven HILLERT, försämlingspräst Alfta-Ovanåker

Sara and Max, in tandem with other LANDPATHS researchers in the forest landscapes and future imaginaries projects, will now analyse all of the insights shared at the workshops, before undertaking the next stage of the research.

View from Växbo in Bollnäs municipality. Photo: Max Whitman.

The UNESCO Voxnadalen Biosphere Reserve spans an area of 342,00 ha in Hälsingland and Dalarna. Read more at This article is a summary of ‘På Landsvägar vi möts’, written by Hanna Alfredssom in the magazine ‘Det händer I Biosfärområde Voxnadalen – Information om Biosfärområde Voxnadalen 2023’, p.14.

Future Forestry in Voxnadalen: A Collective Journey towards Multifunctionality

In this interview, Judith shares the scene with Max Whitman, a Uppsala University doctoral student affiliated with the LANDPATHS sub-project “Forest Landscapes” in Voxnadalen, and Hanna Alfredsson, coordinator for the Voxnadalen Biosphere Reserve in Hälsingland. The conversation revolves around LANDPATHS’ research in Voxnadalen, including focus group discussions and workshops with stakeholders, aimed at exploring and promoting multifunctionality within the forest landscape.

Biosphere Reserve Voxnadalen

Hanna explains the concept of biosphere reserves and Voxnadalen’s unique role in combining natural and cultural heritage with human well-being. She emphasizes the area’s focus on sustainable forest resources, vibrant water systems, and an open landscape. Voxnadalen officially became one of the world’s 740 UNESCO biosphere reserves in 2019, and the LANDPATHS project now focuses on gathering data and fostering dialogue for sustainable development. Hanna underscores the importance of supporting research to reduce polarization in forest debates and achieve Agenda 2030 goals.

Hanna adds “Many of us here are very excited to see what this project or Landpaths can lead to and what it will lead to in practical terms for us and how it can contribute to, for example, a reduced polarization in the forestry debate. And how we can share these experiences also within the network of biosphere reserves. We are very happy to be part of this.

View over Voxnadalen
Voxnadalen biosphere reserve

Voxnadalen as a Study Object in LANDPATHS

Voxnadalen was chosen by sub-project forest landscapes in LANDPATHS due to its biosphere reserve status and commitment to sustainable forestry. Max shares insights from his research project, highlighting collaborative efforts with other researchers, such as Forest landscape subproject leader Sara Holmgren, researchers Neil Powell and Thao Do in subproject Future Imaginaries for method development, and practitioners in Voxnadalen. Their co-creative research aims to understand and promote multifunctionality in the forest landscape through open workshops and focus discussions with various stakeholders.

“We don’t really define our study. We do not come in and say that this is what we are looking at specifically, but we will try to come in with a very open mind and listen and talk to people like Hanna and a lot of other actors in the region to understand what the problems are here. What are the opportunities? What is it that is good? How can we find synergies and create innovations to promote sustainable use of the forest? And in that process understand what is a multifunctional forest landscape and how can we promote it simply?”

Creating Common Visions through Co-Creation

During one of the workshops, the research team encouraged participants to create a headline for a fictitious documentary about Voxnadalen in 2050. Examples included ‘Biosphere reserve used but not consumed,’ emphasizing intangible cultural heritage and questions of cultivation, ownership, and the relationship between them. Another headline, ‘Biosphere Reserve Voxnadalen leads the way to sustainable forestry,’ reflects the ambition to use the biosphere reserve designation as an opportunity to lead in sustainable forestry through education and other initiatives. Other headlines like ‘Diversity, multiple use, and multifunctionality’ and ‘Faith in the future grows in Voxnadalen’s’ encompass knowledge elevation beyond economic aspects, emphasizing collaboration and coordination.

“So we had quite a bit of fun with the headlines and had some that were funny as well in what is it we don’t want to see? And then there were things like Voxnadalen is the largest clearcut’. “

New Value Chain Contributes to Innovation and Sustainable Forestry

Both Hanna and Max stress the importance of dialogue among different actors and stakeholders to understand and promote multifunctionality in the forest landscape. They mention examples like Voxkedjan, an economic association connecting the needs of Helsinge farms for quality timber with contributions from private forest owners, supported by sawmills and processed by Voxkedjan members. The initiative demonstrates the possibilities of creating new value chains for more sustainable forestry while fostering collaboration within the sector.

“In Voxnadalen […] there is a willingness to listen to each other to a greater extent. I think that’s very good because when you start going into ‘okay, what do we mean by sustainable forestry? What is the role of forests in promoting regional development?’ That’s where you can start creating meaning and common visions and also look at building collaborations and promoting innovations,” says Max to summarize his impressions in Voxnadalen.

Multifunctionality – a difficult term in practice

In the interview, the concept of “multifunctionality” is also discussed. Max emphasizes that it can be challenging to explain to individual actors, as it is perceived as abstract. He stresses that the work towards multifunctionality does not follow a linear process with a shared vision implemented backwards. Instead, it involves asking questions and promoting innovations beyond traditional forestry, as seen in the example of Voxkedjan.

Hanna agrees and notes that the term “multifunctionality” was not common among Voxnadalen stakeholders before their participation in the project. She shares the view of creating diversity and infrastructure to promote new ideas and innovations as a path towards multifunctionality within the area, including activities like fishing, tourism, and other industries.

Understanding and Openness Foster Sustainable Forestry

Finally, both Max and Hanna emphasize the importance of working towards sustainable solutions and creating understanding and openness between different perspectives within the forestry sector. Voxnadalen serves as a model for how a biosphere reserve can actively engage in research projects to promote a sustainable future. The research team looks forward to continuing collaboration and exploring opportunities for multifunctionality in forestry in Voxnadalen and beyond.

The full interview (in Swedish) can be found below. 

Nämdö archipelago – A new Swedish Biosphere Reserve ?

Portrait of Charles Westerberg
Charles Westerberg, SH

LANDPATHS subproject “Marine and coastal landscapes” focusses on the management of conflicts in coastal/marine biosphere reserves linked to the UNESCO Man and Biosphere (MAB) programme. Researchers in this subproject study how biospheres interact with wider multi-level and multi-sector governance arrangements such as marine spatial planning. Researchers in this subproject have recently selected Nämdo archipelago as one of the areas for their case study. PhD student Charles Westerberg reports about their first visit to the largest island.

Passenger boat on the way to Nämdö
Boattrip from Stavsnäs to Nämdö


Nämdö archipelago, which consists of hundreds of islands, is located a few hours away from Stockholm and is part of Värmdö municipality. Approximately 30 of the islands are inhabited, with Nämdö being the largest. Nämdö is highly valued by both residents and visitors due to its natural and cultural significance. The archipelago is also home to several nature reserves that are part of the European network Natura 2000, areas containing high biodiversity and exceptional beauty.

Preparation to become a new Biosphere Reserve

As part of LANDPATHS subproject Coastal and marine landscapes, the archipelago will serve as a case study in their preparation process of a new Biosphere Reserve. The goal is to explore how conflicts can be identified and resolved through proposed measures and compromises. Additionally, we are considering collaborating with subproject Barriers and opportunities for change to conduct a citizen mini-public or jury. This engagement approach has been shown to successfully raise awareness and acquire informed feedback from local citizens.

Visiting Nämdö

On April 25th, researchers from both subprojects travelled to Stavsnäs and met with members from the Nämdö Green Archipelago (NGA) group. NGA was founded in 2020 to facilitate sustainable rural development in the archipelago. They are currently working on a pilot study to nominate Nämdö archipelago as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, a process that involves extensive mapping and stakeholder consultations.

Farm owner Stina Molander talking to Landpaths researchers
Stina Molander, farmer and owner of Östanvik farm tells us about her business and how her animals help maintain the open and thriving landscapes of Nämdö and its surrounding islands. From left to right: Fanny Moeckel (LANDPATHS), Karin Heeroma (NGA), Tim Daw (LANDPATHS), Tomas Kjellqvist (Södertörn university), Stina Molander (Nämdö farmer and owner of Östanviks gård), Ann Aldeheim (NGA)

Cows in the stable at Östanvik farm on Nämdö
Cows at Östanvik farm


After a scenic boat ride from Stavsnäs, we arrived on Nämdö island and had the opportunity to meet with residents and visit local hotspots and businesses. Throughout the day, we were introduced to some of the challenges facing Nämdö and its people, such as a declining and aging population, the costs of nature conservations, concerns regarding land ownership, and limited livelihood options. These are just a few of the issues that NGA is hoping to address.

Our work with Nämdö will be ongoing throughout the LANDPATHS project, and we are excited to see how the Biosphere Reserve process will develop.

Person walking on a peer with boats on Nämdö


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