Special Issue "Sustainable Land-Based Bioeconomy Development"

A special issue of Land (ISSN 2073-445X). This special issue belongs to the section "Water, Energy, Land and Food (WELF) Nexus".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 December 2022 | Viewed by 858

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Stefanie Linser
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Institute of Forest, Environmental and Natural Resource Policy and EFI Forest Policy Research Network, BOKU-University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria
Interests: criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management; forest indicators; biodiversity indicators; bioeconomy indicators; environmental indicators
Dr. Martin Greimel
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Centre for Bioeconomy, BOKU-University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Peter-Jordan Str. 82, A-1190 Vienna, Austria
Interests: bioeconomy development and history; bioeconomy strategies and action plans; bioeconomy research coordination
Prof. Dr. Andreas Pyka
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Economics Institute, University of Hohenheim, D-70593 Stuttgart, Germany
Interests: innovation economics; sustainability transformation; complexity economics; innovation networks
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The bioeconomy as a scientific concept was first introduced in the 1970s through an analysis of the economic process with respect to fundamental laws of physics, implying that negative impacts of resource extraction could be reduced by a circular economy with minimized resource throughput. This notion of the bioeconomy being closely linked to natural laws never caught up in political economics and was reinterpreted at the beginning of the new millennium as a political agenda for industrial biomass production in the EU. Following extensive criticism on having missed out on social and ecological sustainability, the EU revised its strategies as sectoral programs and inspired countries around the world to develop their own interpretations of a bioeconomy. A sustainable and circular bioeconomy is also a pathway to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 because the bioeconomy relates to a number of SDGs.

Today, the predominantly academically led discussion has developed into a so-called “mixed-source metadiscourse”, being on a par with comprehensive concepts such as sustainable development or global governance, providing a broad narrative for a decarbonized economy.

As a common denominator, all bioeconomy development perspectives anticipate increased biomass utilization which, in turn, puts land use and availability into particular focus. In light of this conclusion, the aim of this Special Issue is to encourage further discussions on the concept of sustainable bioeconomy development by providing a backdrop through presenting the recent state of the discourse. Further, approaches to monitor, assess and report the implementation of bioeconomy strategies have also become ever more important.

To provide an account on current approaches and implementations, we welcome paper contributions in the form of either empirical research or conceptual/theoretical works on selected perspectives of a land-based bioeconomy through policy analysis, literature reviews and indicator-based monitoring mainly in the following categories:

  • Development of the bioeconomy concept;
  • Economic perspectives of a land-based bioeconomy;
  • Environmental concerns in a sustainable land-based bioeconomy;
  • Socio-cultural aspects in sustainable land-based bioeconomy development;
  • Transformational pathways for a knowledge-based sustainable bioeconomy development;
  • Monitoring, assessment and reporting approaches for a land-based bioeconomy.

Dr. Stefanie Linser
Dr. Martin Greimel
Prof. Dr. Andreas Pyka
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Land is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • bioeconomy development
  • bioeconomy research
  • bioeconomy modeling
  • bioeconomy monitoring
  • bioeconomy markets
  • bioeconomy policy
  • land-based bioeconomy
  • socio-ecological transformation
  • innovation economics

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission, see below for planned papers.

Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title: Forest bioeconomy in Brazil: potential innovative products from the forest sector
Authors: Maximo, Yasmin Imparato*; Hassegawa, Mariana; Verkerk, Pieter Johannes; Missio, André Luiz
Affiliation: 1 European Forest Institute, … Finland 2 Centro de Desenvolvimento Tecnológico, Universidade Federal de Pelotas, … Brazil; 3 Centro de Engenharias, Universidade Federal de Pelotas, … Brazil.
Abstract: The forest sector plays an important role in the bioeconomy due to its focus on renewable materials that can substitute for fossil or emission-intensive materials. This study investigates the state of the bioeconomy in Brazil and its forest industry. This study compiles examples of the new wood-based products developed or manufactured in Brazil and discusses possible opportunities for the development of its forest sector. Currently, the pulp and paper industry play an important role in the country’s forest sector, and it also has been showing actions towards the development of value-added products, such as nanocrystalline cellulose, wood-based textile fibers, lignin-based products, and chemical derivatives from tall oil. Product and business diversification through the integration of the pulp and paper industry to biorefineries could bring new opportunities. Besides the biochemicals derived from pulp and paper production, biochemicals derived from non-wood forest products, such as resin and tannins are present in Brazil and could promote diversification and competitiveness of Brazilian forest industry. Moreover, the wood industry has been manufacturing innovative products, such as glued laminated timber, cross-laminated timber, and laminated veneer lumber. Although still timid, this segment has an opportunity to expand in the future following the global development of the wood construction sector.

Title: The role of forest products in the circular bioeconomy: status, developments and opportunities towards sustainability
Authors: Hassegawa, Mariana*; Van Brusselen, Jo; Cramm, Mathias; Pieter Johannes
Affiliation: 1 European Forest Institute, … Finland
Abstract: The global economic system needs to be rethought to address the root-causes of the unsustainable use of natural resources. Bio-based products can substitute fossil sources to produce energy, food, feed, fibre, and other manufactured goods. This study aimed to better understand the role of selected forest products in the circular bioeconomy and the possible changes in their markets, and also investigate which elements could ensure and strengthen the environmental sustainability of these forest products. The forest sector has long manufactured numerous everyday products, many of which have seen changes in demand in the past years. The demand for graphic paper has declined over the last 15 years, while the demand for packaging has been increasing, following the population growth. Other products, such as cross-laminated timber and man-made cellulosic fibres have seen their global consumption increase since the last decade. While there are benefits associated with substitution of non-renewable materials by wood-based products, there is still limited understanding on substitution effects at market-, country- and worldwide level. Also, forest products can provide benefits compared to greenhouse gas-intensive materials, but there are also potential risks associated with the increased production and consumption of forest products. Allocating large volumes of wood to specific applications will likely increase competition for raw materials and may lead to negative substitution effects, i.e. wood products are substituted by non-renewable products. To ensure the environmental sustainability of a circular forest bioeconomy, it is important to overcome knowledge and implementation gaps along the global forest product value chain.

Title: Perceptions on the bioeconomy in European regions. A comparative analysis
Authors: Inazio Martinez de Arano*; Diana Tuomasjukka; Siebe Briers; Venla Wallius
Affiliation: European Forest Institute, Spain
Abstract: The circular bioeconomy can be seen as an important lever for a systemic transition towards a more sustainable, competitive, and self-reliant development path. Regions, as territorial units with specific social-ecological conditions, political and socioeconomic strategies, have been identified as key actors for the development of the bioeconomy and the achievement of EU bioeconomy ambitions. Close to 200 EU regions have developed one or more bioeconomy related strategies, the majority as sectoral approaches (e.g., agri-food, forestry…) or embedded in the framework of sustainable development or circular economy. However, there is very little comparable information on how the bioeconomy, as a transformative development path, is perceived by regional policy and economic actors. To fill this gap, a survey on regional perceptions on the bioeconomy was developed by EFI Bioregions facility. The survey aims at understanding which are the perceived benefits and risks of the bioeconomy which are the most promising sectors, and related policy domains. The most important drivers and barriers at regional level, and the willing ess to engage in the development of the bioeconomy. To guaranty comparability, the survey is translated to the local language (English, Spanish, Finish, German, Italian, at the moment of writing this abstract), and launched by the regional government, directly inviting up to 200 key regional stakeholders in the public sectors and private sectors. As of May 2022, 5 regions from Finland, Spain, Italy, and Germany have launched the survey. Preliminary results show a high degree of commonalities and also remarkable differences. In general terms, there is a rather positive attitude to the bioeconomy, with potential benefits clearly out-weighing perceived risks. Perceived benefits are mainly related to the environment, and specially to climate change mitigation. Much less relevance is given to economic and social positive impacts. Interestingly, respondents, don’t consider the bioeconomy as a strategic economy engine in any of the regions and give relatively low attention to economic and social implications of the bioeconomy, other than a general recognition of its role in support of rural development. The consideration of sustainability as the main rational for the bioeconomy may explain with across regions, both public and private sectors assign relatively greater responsibility to the public sectors for the development and communication of the bioeconomy.

Title: Economic and environmental impacts of alternative European forest sector development pathways
Authors: Alexander Moiseyev; Hans Verkerk; Georgy Safonov
Affiliation: 1 European Forest Institute, … Finland
Abstract: The economic and environmental impacts of long term development of the European forest products markets are assessed using the global forest sector model EFI-GTM coupled with EFISCEN forest scenario model. The increasing use of wood for construction and man-made textile can offset the declining trend of graphic paper production. The scenarios of global forest sector development are analyzed by incorporating the EU regional bioeconomy strategy and cooperative global efforts to increase use of wood for production of materials in addition to providing more wood biomass for energy purposes. The economic, environmental and climate change mitigation impacts of different scenarios are analyzed.

Title: Just transformations in bioeconomy discourses
Authors: Bernhard Kastner; Stefanie Linser; Alice Ludvig
Affiliation: University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU), Austria
Abstract: The term ‘Bioeconomy’ was first introduced as a scientific concept in the 1970s through an analysis of the economic process with respect to fundamental laws of physics, implying that negative impacts of resource extraction could be reduced by a circular economy with minimized resource throughput. This notion of bioeconomy being closely linked to natural laws however never caught up in political economics and was reinterpreted at the beginning of the new millennium by a political agenda for industrial biomass production and conversion in the EU. Following extensive criticism on having missed out on social and ecological sustainability the EU revised their strategy into a sectoral program and inspired countries around the world to develop their own interpretations of a bioeconomy. The now highly influential political agendas on bioeconomy aim at the transformation of the fossil-based economy into a biobased one as a solution to the manifold environmental crises. Simultaneously the academic discourse has been examining the development of those policies and the scientific evidence on which they are based. This paper seeks to analyze this recent bioeconomy discourse and identify common elements within the corresponding scientific literature that promise to catalyze the transformation of the economic system and the socio-ecological foundation it is based upon. Through a systematic literature review we have found strong indications that the bioeconomy needs to be understood as a holistic concept encompassing not only the technical-economical but most importantly the socio-cultural aspects to contribute to a sustainable development. While the former is required to enhance efficiency in resource use, it must still be accompanied by the latter as the stability and performance of economies rely heavily on the resilience of social and political systems. Furthermore, literature suggests that the general aim of economic activity needs to be steered away from the incentives offered by traditional indicators of wealth and progress such as material prosperity and economic growth. This will facilitate a view on economy as part of a socio-cultural system integrated into the natural environment from which it draws the most essential resources for survival and propagation.

Title: Contribution of non-wood forest products to bioeconomy: an innovation system analysis for side activities of forestry
Authors: Gerhard Weiss1; Alice Ludvig; Ivana Zivojinovic
Affiliation: University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU), Austria
Abstract: Non‐timber forest products are often presented as a potentially promising but a neglected business field of forest holdings. Thus, they are often termed “side‐products”, “niche markets” or even “non‐market goods. As a result, the field of non‐timber products and related business opportunities are hardly visible and recognized, although they seem to be bigger than often thought. The problems behind why the assumingly bigger potential is partly neglected include, first, a limited marketability, connected to the often found public good character of such products but, second, also a limited attention of established sectoral innovation systems, thus providing only limited support of or even barriers against their development. The proposed paper starts from the second observation and aims to analyse with empirical examples what this unfortunate environment means for innovations. How do they come about? What support and what barriers exist? What is their potential and contribution to the bioeconomy paradigm? For the purpose of this research, questionnaires have been sent to and interviews have been conducted with central innovation system actors and with innovators in specific innovation case studies around Europe. As a result, it can be said that there is no “one” innovation system supporting non‐timber products but support is given through certain programmes from several sectoral innovation systems, including forestry, agriculture and nature conservation. When actors and support organisations are grouped according to types of organisations, most actors belong to regional level organisations. Also the products are often of specific regional relevance. An important policy implication thus is that sectoral support programmes should provide for sufficient leeway to flexibly adapt to local products or other local specific needs. The cross‐sectoral characteristics of many of these products seem to be furthermore the reason for direct barriers because of a competition between the involved sectors – forestry, agriculture and nature conservation (Buttoud et al., 2011). The forestry sector seems to be hesitant in supporting activities which may benefit other groups than the land owners – these products are often for the benefit of processing companies, conservationists or the broad public. Finally, an indirect barrier is found in the fact that non‐timber forest products are a side‐activity of any relevant sectors which leads to a “blindness” of the institutional system towards these products: a lack of statistics, specific research, education and training programmes and focussed support structures are the result. This research further shows that there is rich potential in the forest bioeconomy for private forest owners and producers with activities related to non-wood forest products. These activities can range from a collection of these products for subsistence to collectively organized production that can be of benefit to the rural areas. Most of these are product innovations, some are service innovations, while some combine services with product innovations, and also fulfill the criteria to be social innovations.

Title: The role of the social licence to operate in the emerging bioeconomy – A case study of short rotation coppice poplar in Slovakia
Authors: Christine Pichler*; Daniela Fürtner; Franziska Hesser; Peter Schwarzbauer; Lea Ranacher
Affiliation: 1. Wood K plus – Competence Centre for Wood Composites and Wood Chemistry, Kompetenzzentrum Holz GmbH, Altenberger Straße 69, 4040 Linz, Austria; 2 Institute of Marketing and Innovation, Department of Economics and Social Sciences, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna, Feistmantelstraße 4, 1180 Vienna, Austria
Abstract: Wood plays a key role in the endeavors of the EU to establish a circular bioeconomy based on renewable biological resources. Today, forestry on its own cannot sustainably satisfy the demand for woody biomass. Short Rotation Coppice (SRC) represents a possible alternative production system where fast-growing tree species are cultivated on agricultural land. Thus far lacking farmers’ engagement and public opposition against other bioenergy projects have hindered the expansion of SRC. At the same time society does not consider wood unconditionally sustainable anymore. The Social License to Operate (SLO) describes the dynamic relationship between industries, their communities, and other stakeholders. The present study adapted a quantitative SLO model based on integrative socio-psychological relationship modelling and applied it to a case study in Slovakia. The roles trust, fairness, impact assessment, and governance hold for the establishment of social acceptance were analyzed with Structural Equation Modelling (SEM). The model revealed the perception of individual benefits as the strongest predictor for social acceptance. The average level of social acceptance was found to be between “Acceptance” and “Approval”. The results therefore show that SRC currently must not face societal pressure in Slovakia. However, the SLO is not static and must be constantly re-evaluated

Title: The march towards circularity: A comparative review of value chains in the forest-based sector
Authors: Aggestam, Filip
Affiliation: European Forest Institute
Abstract: Forests has the potential to play an important role in the development of a circular economy, primarily, as forests provide a natural resource (wood) that is both reusable and recyclable. Wood can also sequester carbon while being renewable and biodegradable. Taking a value chain approach, this paper examines the potential for implementing circular economy principles across two value chains, covering five wood-based sectors – sawnwood, bioenergy, construction, paper and pulp, and cellulose-based fibres and plastics. The analysis is largely qualitative and limited to the material flow, however, the results demonstrate that a circular approach requires transformation across entire value chains. Moreover, the respective value chains demonstrate that circularity will require new business models, connections across sectors and companies, as well as the application of new technologies and management tools. It will also require increased awareness about circularity and existing approaches (both on the supply and demand side) to ensure that wood-based products become circular. The analysis likewise confirms prevailing conceptual ambiguities surrounding the circular economy concept, such as the relationship between circularity and sustainability, which would need to be resolved. For example, the practice of circularity does not equal to sustainability, nor does it mean reduced emissions. All-in-all, the paper suggests the untapped potential to slow (extend a product's lifetime), close (increase recycling) and narrow (use fewer resources per product) production loops in forest-based industries.

Title: Life Cycle Sustainability assessment: Conception and Experiences of an innovation Project
Authors: Franziska Hesser1, 2*, Alejandro Perdomo1, Daniela Fürtner1, Christine Pichler1, 2, Claudia Mair-Bauernfeind2
Affiliation: 1. Institute of Marketing and Innovation, Department of Economics and Social Sciences, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna, Feistmantelstraße 4, 1180 Vienna, Austria 2 Wood K plus—Competence Center for Wood Composites and Wood Chemistry, Kompetenzzentrum Holz GmbH, Altenberger Straße 69, 4040 Linz, Austria
Abstract: Rising demand for bio-based products exerts growing pressure on natural resources such as wood. The agricultural technique of short rotation coppice (SRC) has gained relevance to ease the pressure of the demand for wood from forests. The European funded Project Dendromass4Europe demonstrates the establishment of SRC in Western Slovakia and its biomass use for four new bio-based materials in a developing bioeconomy. Along with the development of the plantations and material value chains a Life Cycle Sustainability assessment (LCSA) is conducted to anticipate critical hotspots and derive measures for improvement. The conceptual framework of the assessment comprises (socio)-economic, environmental and social aspects in a mutual accounting framework following the life cycle assessment methodology and defined by the dedromass production and the value chains from cradle-to-gate and grave. In an iterative process the impact categories to be assessed were selected by stakeholder consultation followed by the selection of specific methods to implement the (socio)-economic assessment via regional value added and cost-benefit analysis, the environmental assessment via Life Cycle Assessment, soil carbon modelling and Planetary Boundaries and the social assessments via social life cycle assessment and risk hot-spotting. While a LCSA during the research and development phase of new production systems bears potentials towards sustainable development, several challenges in integrating assessments of (socio)-economic, environmental and social aspects arise. For instance, as the LCSA of products during R&D tends to be conducted on a micro-level, the social sustainability assessments rather refer to the macro level. We have experienced challenges in conducting the LCSA due to differences in scales and data needs inherent to the different methods as well as challenging data collections by means of time investment and willingness to disclose. Despite the limitations, our case shows how LCSA can support the decision-making on sustainability levers during a project establishment by presenting a comprehensive analysis of potential implications on the environment, the people and the economy. Keywords: bioeconomy development, land-use, sustainable innovation, Life Cycle modelling

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