Hidden costs of implementing afforestation as a climate mitigation strategy: A comprehensive assessment of direct and indirect impacts (HiddenCosts)

Project Department: Uni Research Rokkan Centre / Uni Research Climate (groups: Biogeochemistry, Climate Impacts on Nature and Society) period: 01.01.17 - 31.12.20

About the project

Photo credit: Christine Pötsch


The role of forests in mitigating and managing climate change has been recognized since the early policy discussions under the collective label of "Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU)". In Norway, extensive planting of trees in open landscapes has been suggested as an important policy measure (St. Meld. 21 2011-2012). Under the current Norwegian climate mitigation plan, afforestation of new areas is considered the 4th most viable method. The effects and merits of afforestation have been highly debated both in the scientific community and in the public. In parallel to afforestation, large areas of unused and abandoned semi-natural areas in Norway are now undergoing massive natural succession towards deciduous forest. The impact assessments, however, have not yet moved beyond simple back-of-the-envelope calculation of carbon binding capacity by aboveground biomass.

(A) Location of field sites and (B) Schematics of site establishment plan. We will take advantage of existing sites for traditional management and afforestation sites in collaboration with LandPress and CLIMATELAND projects and will establish afforestation and natural succession areas in suitable locations at those sites during the course of this project.


HiddenCosts is based on the realization that the current policy for afforestation as a climate mitigation strategy is based on incomplete knowledge and needs more rigorous evaluation in the full range of direct and indirect effects and costs vs. the realistic alternative landscape management scenarios. It is of vital importance that the full costs and benefits of afforestation vs. these realistic alternative management scenarios are rigorously assessed. Such an assessment is also time-sensitive due to the ongoing pilot projects. We will apply a multidisciplinary approach by integrating Earth System and regional climate modeling (WP1), in situ observations of biodiversity, ecosystem structure, and carbon storage (WP2), and public valuation and ecosystem services analysis (WP3) to gain more holistic understanding of the effects (both costs and benefits) of afforestation, continued management, and natural succession in the open lowland landscapes of Norway. Information gained from WPs1-3 will then be synthesized (WP4) to communicate effectively with relevant stakeholders and the public.

Project organization between and across WPs and between HiddenCosts and other ongoing projects. Solid arrows indicate direct exchange of knowledge and data between projects and WPs. Dotted arrows indicate indirect use of data such as using observational data in model result evaluation. Each WP will be coordinated by the WP leaders, who report directly to the PI. Interaction with collaborating projects will be both directly through the WP activities and through joint communication and synthesis activities (see WP 4, not indicated in the diagram).


Project PI:

Hanna Lee, Uni Research Climate


Project Partners:

Stefan Sobolowski, Uni Research Climate

Liv Guri Velle, Møreforsking

Vigdis Vandvik, University of Bergen

Endre Tvinnereim, Uni Research Rokkansenteret

Kristine Grimsrud, Statistisk sentralbyrå

Eystein Jansen, Uni Research Climate


Projects link to Cristin


cp: 2019-12-04 11:17:33