A Midsummer Night's Dream

by Gyde Lund, Integrated Resource Inventories and Assessments

It was close to midnight on 21 June. The sun was just below the horizon, yet there was still enough light to easily see to steer the boat across the lake to the dock where an all night dance was taking place. It was Midsummer Night in Finland. Celebrations were abounding in the countryside and we had the opportunity to join the festivities. My wife, Dora, and I had just arrived for a 6-month stay in this beautiful and friendly country. I was there through the generosity of the people of the City of Joesnsuu on a research scholarship to complete work on some guidelines for designing multipurpose resource inventories at the European Forest Institute.  Dora was there to keep me company and to enjoy the Finnish hospitality.

European Forest Institute

The European Forest Institute (EFI) is an independent and non-government research body consisting of cooperative research labs from around the world. The EFI conducts problem-oriented and multi-disciplinary forest research at the European level in order to serve the needs of policy-making and decision-making bodies in Europe. The purpose of the Institute is to undertake research on

  • forest policy, including its environmental aspects,
  • ecology, multiple use, resources and health of European forests,
  • supply and demand for timber and other forest products, and
  • to prepare forecasts on future development of European forest resources and their utilization.

The European Forest Institute was established in 1993 by 12 founding members. Since then the number of members, projects and staff have grown rapidly. The total number of the member organizations is now 102 from 35 countries. The members represent an even geographical distribution. Most of the members come from east Europe (29) and west and central Europe (25), followed by southern (18) and north Europe (17) and non-governmental organizations with no specific geographical base (6). EFI has 7 members outside Europe.

The benefits of membership include preference in allocation of EFI studentships and fellowships, receiving EFI's publications punctually and without cost, and having free access to EFI's database on European Forest Resources. Since the members of EFI are Institutions, the total number of individuals included in the membership is therefore many thousands.

My work at EFI focused on continuation of some Multipurpose Resource Inventory work I had started prior to my retirement from the USDA Forest Service.

Multipurpose Resource Inventory

Forest inventories have traditionally focused on the timber resource. However, emerging environmental, ecological, economic, social, and political concerns are forcing us to take a much broader perspective of our land and resource base from the global scale to the local level.Global warming, loss of biodiversity, employment and social well-being are just a few of the issues that nations agreed to tackle at the 1992 United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development. At the local level, clashes between the need to develop resources and preserve them are becoming more frequent. The information provided by the traditional timber inventories is no longer adequate.

The successful and sustainable management of forest resources often depends on how associated lands and resources are managed. Fundamental to the management of any resource is the need for valid information on its extent, condition, amount, location, and production capacity. In many countries resource managers require periodic information for all land, soil, vegetation (timber, agriculture, forage), water, air, fish and wildlife, aesthetics, recreation, wilderness, and energy and mineral resources. They use this information to meet international requirements, develop national strategic plans, and for local planning.

Traditionally resource inventories are conducted independently on a sector by sector basis (e.g., forest, agriculture, range, and wildlife). Gathering independent data by resource functions can lead to gaps in information and perhaps unnecessary and costly duplication of work. One way to avoid this problem is to carry out multipurpose resource or integrated inventories. A multipurpose resource inventory (MRI) is one that is designed to collect data to meet the needs of two or more resources, goods, products, services, or sectors. The focus is on coordinating data collection efforts to reduce overall costs and at the same time to provide more comprehensive information.

The notion of multipurpose inventories is relatively new. While the concept of MRI is relatively simple, designing, implementing, and carrying out an MRI may prove quite difficult. The International Union of Forestry Research Organizations (IUFRO) Subject Group 4.02 working through the European Forest Institute and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service undertook two tasks in 1997. One was to conduct a literature review and comparative study of existing Multipurpose Resource Inventories throughout the world. The second was to use the information from the comparative study to complete a set of guidelines that a nation or organization can use to help design multiple purpose resource inventories.

The Comparative Study

A questionnaire was sent out to all the national Forest Services throughout the world to determine who is conducting MRI and for what purposes. The questionnaire sought to learn what data are collected, what problems are presented in developing MRI and how to overcome these problems. Specifically we sought information on:

  1. The area and resources surveyed;
  2. Sectors involved;
  3. How decisions were reached and who assumed the leadership role, how, and why.
  4. The data collected (including forms, glossaries, and standards);
  5. The design used;
  6. Obstacles in carrying out the inventory;
  7. The results and uses of the data; and
  8. Recommendations for changes in the program.

The questionnaire and a literature review showed that at least 34 countries have some form of MRI at some level. An additional 22 countries are interested in developing MRIs. The results of the study may be found in: A Comparison of Multipurpose Resource Inventories (MRIs) Throughout the World. EFI Working Paper 14. 46 p. ISBN 952-9844-47-6. ISSN 1237-5216. Price: 15 ECU or about $16.40 USD. To order the publication see http://www.efi.fi/publications/ or contact the European Forest Institute, Torikatu 34, FI-80100 Joensuu, Finland. Tel: +358-13-252-0229. Fax: +358-13-124-393. Email: office@efi.joensuu.fi

The IUFRO Guidelines

Diverse and often conflicting demands upon land and natural resources around the world require that decision makers cater to a wide range of potential human interests within any given area such as agriculture, biomass production, biodiversity, recreation, and urban expansion. This means that administrators have to look at the land and its resources for a variety of potential uses. To increase the benefits of data collected and to minimize expenditures, inventory specialists are turning more and more to multipurpose or integrated resource inventories. This is particularly true at the broader decision-making scales -- provincial, national, regional and global.

Using the information derived from the questionnaire, literature review and input from researchers in the field, we completed the IUFRO Guidelines for Designing Multipurpose Resource Inventories. The purpose of the guidelines is to help the reader to ensure that inventories of land, soil, vegetation, water, air, fish and wildlife, aesthetics, recreation, wilderness, and energy and mineral resources are conducted in an effective way. Such information is essential for the sustainable management of our natural resources.

These guidelines provide basic information on Multipurpose Resource Inventories (MRI) for the inventory planner and the decision-maker at the provincial or national level although the instructions are useful at the local level as well. The guidelines are based upon the worldwide survey mentioned above, a literature review and the personal experiences of nearly 60 contributing co-authors. We discuss the need for MRIs, the information requirements, support structure, and the design and implementation issues in depth. The guides should be of benefit to any organization that manages lands for multiple purposes or for decision-makers that have to make choices between land uses (i.e., forestry and agriculture).

The work has been published as: IUFRO Guidelines for Designing Multipurpose Resource Inventories. A project of IUFRO 4.02.02. IUFRO World Series Vol. 8. 216 p. ISBN 3-901347-09-7. ISSN 1016-3263. FDC 524.61:524.63. Price $30 US plus shipping and handling. For instructions on how to order see <http://iufro.boku.ac.at/publications/ws.htm> or contact the IUFRO Secretariat, c/o Federal Forest Research Institute, Seckendorff-Gudent Weg 8, Austria. Tel: + 43-1-877-0151; Fax: +43-1-877-9355. Email: iufro@forvie.ac.at


Joensuu is in the eastern part of Finland connected by air, water, rail, and excellent highways to rest of Finland. The city boasts a population of about 50,000. One could walk from one end of town to the other in 15 minutes -- (which we did on several occasions). The city is interlaced with hiking, bike and ski trails and sits at the junction of a large river and lake. Joensuu reminded us of a typical small town in western United States with all the conveniences. The major differences we noted were that people talked funny; there was no crime, and very little pollution. Driving on the highways and back roads was pure pleasure.

The winters are long. The first snow fell on 21 October when we were there and stayed around until sometime in April. The EFI Headquarters in Joensuu is a great place to get serious research work done. The facilities and support staff are excellent. In addition, there are very few distractions other than outdoor activities. The nearby University of Joesnuu's Forestry Department and an office of the Metla -- the Finnish Research Institute provides ample opportunities to meet with other researchers. Even though Finnish and Swedish are the national languages, most people speak English. In places where they did not, we got along superbly with friendly smiles, gestures and body language.

Dora and I really enjoyed out tour in Finland. Since we both now have our official reindeer driving license, we look forward to returning some day. If you should have an opportunity to visit or work in that beautiful country – take it! It is a midsummer's night's dream!

Originally published October 1998

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