waldzukünfte - Futures and Visions - Forest 2100: Long-term perspectives of forest and land use, development dynamics, normative attitude and governance

Background and Goals

The "Forest Future and Visions 2100: Long-term perspectives for forest and land use - Development dynamics, normative attitudes and governance" projects provides interested parties with an insight into the development of scenarios for the future of forests. What could and should the forest look like in 100 years? What requirements will it have to meet in the future and what climatic conditions will it be faced with? What future do we want for the forest and land use? What social, economic, ecological, technical and political developments can already be identified that will influence the future of forests? How can decisions made today ensure that a range of options remain open for future needs? The project team is working on these and other questions, in order to develop a tangible and clear picture of possible and desirable future situations. The project is aiming to illuminate expected, possible and desirable future developments with a time horizon up to the year 2100.

As the future of the forest is a social decision, the project is aiming to stimulate a broad discussion of the issue. Therefore, a key focus is on transparency and involvement. All results and publications will be available for download on the project homepage. Numerous workshops and conferences during the project provide an opportunity for people to contribute their own ideas and opinions.

The objective of the project is to stimulate debate about the future of forests and land use with a time horizon up to 2100. The project there aims to:

  • Create awareness of future responsibility and active shaping of the future;
  • Promote an understanding of the influencing factors that will shape the future of forests and land use in Germany;
  • Highlight options for action by politicians and society and provide background knowledge for companies, political players and social organisations.

An analysis of currently identifiable problem areas that are relevant for the future and their potential to change is fundamental to the project. Detailed analysis of these future areas uncovers relevant development dynamics and forms the basis for subsequent discussion in the 2100 vision forum. The following future areas are investigated: Globalisation and international markets; climate change; demographic trends; prospects for use of wood for energy; recycling of materials and new technologies; competition for land; working culture and region; social and cultural change.

Content time


Research area/region

  • Germany
Region of implementation (all German federal states)
  • Baden-Württemberg
  • Bavaria
  • Berlin
  • Brandenburg
  • Bremen
  • Hamburg
  • Hesse
  • Mecklenburg Western Pomerania
  • Lower Saxony
  • Northrhine-Westphalia
  • Rhineland Palatinate
  • Saarland
  • Saxony
  • Saxony-Anhalt
  • Schleswig-Holstein
  • Thuringia

Steps in the process of adaptation to climate change

Step 1: Understand and describe climate change

Approach and results 

The project does not publish any climate projections and does not provide forecasts for what forests will actually look like in 2100. The more influencing factors and development dynamics that are taken into account and the further the time horizon is pushed out, the greater the uncertainty in the future predictions. This requires thinking in corridors of possible future paths. At the end of this process are consistent, alternative pictures of the future and options for action, which can then be discussed and adopted in terms of their desirability and achievability. To assist with this, the development and influence of relevant problem areas on future forest and land use are studied.

The results of the scenario development are three conceivable development paths up to 2100, each of which is based on different assumptions about political action.

Path 1 - Continue as we are: The moderating state

The state tends to act reactively and incrementally, primarily as a moderator concerned to balance interests.

Path 2 - Towards sustainability: The proactive regulating state

The state takes a proactive, controlling regulator role, with the aim of broad implementation of sustainability concepts.

Path 3 - Trusting market forces: The deregulating state

The lean state that trusts in the social benefits and efficiency of private economic initiatives.

Time horizon
  • short term = next year’s / decades
  • medium term = to 2050
  • long term = to 2100 and beyond

Step 2a: Identify and assess risks - climate effects and impact

Approach and results 

The effects of climate change are derived from the scenarios for the future of forests. For example, vegetation zones may shift, and a change in temperature or precipitation conditions will have an impact on vegetation. These developments could impair the function of the forest and change the distribution of forest areas.

Step 2b: Identify and assess risks - Vulnerability, risks and chances

Urgency and priorization of adaptation needs 

The question of what forests could look like in 100 years is difficult to answer as there are a large number of factors that influence forests and their use. Nevertheless, answering the question is important, as many of the trees that are planted today will not be ready for felling until 2100. The direction taken and decisions made today therefore have a huge significance for the future of forests and can be used to systematically prepare for tomorrow's world.

Step 3: Develop and compare measures

Measures and/or strategies 

Several basic studies on important future issues will summarise relevant developments for the the future and the factors that influence them (""key factors"") and these will then be validated by an extended group of experts. Scenarios are developed for different time horizons from the key factors, containing conclusions about options for action and important players. These can be used as a basis for drawing up conclusions and recommendations on how to adapt to the future for decision makers in society, business and politics. The discussion phase, in which the scenarios and recommendations are discussed in public conferences by social, business and political players and with academic experts, is of critical importance.

For forests, climate change is not just an issue for the future, it is already one of the major challenges for everyone involved in forestry: Forest management decisions on the selection of tree species have medium and long-term consequences. Future developments in the environment and the climate need to be taken into account today.

From the expert survey, twelve theses can be derived for the development of forests and land use:

1. The multifunctional nature of forests will be rebalanced and will shift in favour of economic factors;

2. By 2050, forest functions will no longer be provided integratively on the land, but will be differentiated in different areas;

3. Increasingly intensive use will lead to overuse of forests;

4. Forestry will be significantly affected by climate change, but is not yet sufficiently prepared;

5. Some of the boundaries between agriculture and forestry will disappear;

6. Forest ownership conditions will change by 2050 and will lead to new raw material procurement strategies in the timber industry;

7. Due to advancing mechanisation and automation, forestry will become a high-tech sector;

8. Forest structures will change by 2100;

9. Genetic diversity in forest ecosystems will decline;

10. Suitability of genetic engineering in forest management is viewed with scepticism;

11. The forestry sector will need to integrate with other sectors due to advancing globalisation of timber markets and increasing demand;

12. Social commitment and a willingness to pay for forests as a public good can be identified in some approaches.

Objectives: The objective of the project in terms of adaptation to climate change is to answer the following questions:

- What strategies can forest management employ to counter the uncertainty of climate effect estimates (e.g. risk spreading)?

- How should forest owners, representatives of the forestry sector and forest conservationists prepare for climate change?

- Should stocks in forests with a production and protection function be reduced?

- What are the consequences of the choice of forest management strategy under change climatic conditions?

- What are the opportunities and risks for owners of forest areas from a long-term perspective?

- What opportunities and risks are linked to the allowance for using forests as carbon sinks part of climate protection?

- What trends can be seen in terms of allowances for climate-related activities in forestry and timber in an international context?

Time horizon
  • 2071–2100 (far future)
Conflicts / synergies / sustainability 

As a communication instrument, scenarios can promote discussion of important trends, future challenges, interactions between various influencing factors, possible disturbances and the (different) objectives of society, business and politics. In terms of the future issue of "competition for land", therefore, statements are made about the future extent and usage patterns of forest areas, timber demand conditions (for use in production and energy generation) and competition between the different types of land use. How land is used depends on the one hand on economic factors, i.e. the relative economic efficiency of one use compared to other possible uses. On the other hand, social values and power relationships through political processes and spatial planning set a framework, in which private usage decisions have to be placed. The objective of the project's work on this future issue is to record the development of the positions of competing land uses and to analyse the underlying influencing factors. Development or foreseeable trends in agricultural, residential and transport use are investigated in terms of their relevance for the development of forests and forest use. In addition, recreation and leisure uses, and conservation have an influence on the future development of the scope and structure of forest uses.


Funding / Financing 

Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), funding priority "Sustainable Forest Management"

Project management 

INFIS - Institute for International Social Research


Institute of Forest and Environmental Policy (IFP),
Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW),
Institut für Zukunftsstudien und Technologiebewertung (IZT) gGmbH,
Karl Moser Consulting,
Chair for Environmental Ethics at Institute of Botany and Landscape Ecology of Ernst Moritz Arndt University Greifswald,
Z_punkt The Foresight Company


INFIS - Institut für internationale Sozialforschung e.V., Berlin, Freiburg
Duisburgerstraße 17
D-10707 Berlin

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Fields of action:
 agriculture  biological diversity  tourism industry  woodland and forestry