Conflicts over the forest of the future

Tote Käferfichten in gesundem Laubwald (Foto: Ralf Blechschmidt -

Drought and aridity, fires and pests: Climate change is threatening Germany’s forests. To make them resilient for the future, the German government is promoting forest conversion from conifers to mixed and deciduous forests. But what exactly should this “forest of the future” look like and who will be allowed to use it? There is a great deal of controversy about this. After all, the forest plays a variety of roles: For recreation, timber production, hunting, as a place for wind power or for climate protection. Trees and plants pull CO2 from the air and store carbon in trunks, roots and the soil. They host a diversity of species in ecosystems that buffer climate change. So how do you reconcile nature conservation and climate protection with the economic use of forests?

Conflicts over forest use

As climate change progresses, this discussion about forests is coming to a head. Not infrequently, this leads to tangible conflicts over very specific forest areas. In order to resolve these disagreements and find sensible solutions for the future, dialogue is becoming increasingly important. Only if forest users with different positions and interests also talk to each other and jointly search for compromises can the solution work.

ISOE investigates the conflicts about the forest of the future and ways for a constructive dialogue from a scientific perspective. In the research project “Conflicts over the forest of the future – analysis and cooperative processing of forest-related negotiation processes in the context of climate change”, round tables are held. People from very different backgrounds are invited to participate and thus move the debate forward. ISOE’s goal is to use case studies to explore what kind of dialogue brings the parties closer together instead of driving them further apart.

Round tables in four regions

In a first step, the “round table” format is used for conflict management in four different regions. Representatives of different interest groups discuss a factual problem on an equal footing, make each other understand the different perspectives and try to find a common solution to a conflict. A round table is therefore a results-oriented group discussion in which the participants represent as many interests as possible in a topic.

This result can be, for example, an idea, a solution proposal or a cooperation approach. The round tables are moderated by an independent mediator and also receive scientific support. In the project, the roundtable format promotes expert and practice-relevant exchange on a controversial topic in the context of forest management in climate change. Different forms of knowledge and expertise are brought together and made accessible for practice. Furthermore, the roundtables enable a comprehensive gain of knowledge for the scientific research interest.

Research approach

In a first step, the ISOE project team investigated the currently most explosive conflict dynamics at the interface of nature conservation, climate protection and forestry. Literature research and document analysis have resulted in an overview of concrete current conflict issues that arise in forest design. From this, individual conflict areas and local case studies are selected and analyzed in detail. Actions, interpretations and viewpoints of the actors involved are described, examined and reconstructed from their respective perspectives. 

The second step is to deal with the previously identified conflicts. The actors involved are given the opportunity to engage in an exchange with each other. In addition to round tables, other formats are tested that can contribute to de-escalation. In addition, case studies are used to develop communication approaches appropriate to the situation in order to generate understanding on the part of the conflict parties for the other side and, at best, to be able to have a mitigating effect on the situation. Finally, knowledge and methods are imparted that enable the actors to recognize, classify and de-escalate emerging conflicts at an early stage in the future. In addition, public relations work will be carried out to raise awareness of the issue of sustainable forest conversion in the context of climate change among target groups. 

Research and project partners

  • pro re – Partizipation und Mediation
  • Forstliches Forschungs- und Kompetenzzentrum (FFK Gotha) 
  • Ahnen&Enkel – Agentur für Kommunikation 
  • Dr. Engelbert Schramm


The project “Conflicts over the forest of the future – analysis and cooperative processing of forest-related negotiation processes in the context of climate change” is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) within the framework of the funding programme “Renewable Resources”.


2022/10 – 2025/10