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Published: 28 February 2020

ArcticHubs is an EU Horizon 2020 project where researchers at machine design are working to increase the sustainability of forest machine work through precise and lean forestry operations.

Increasing global competition for natural resources poses major challenges to the Arctic. ArcticHubs will develop sustainable solutions for reconciliation of competing livelihoods and land-use modes in key Arctic ‘hubs’ — important socioeconomic nodes in a geographical network — and their surroundings, considering in particular the needs and cultures of local communities (incl. indigenous people). This will be achieved by applying multi- and interdisciplinary, multi-actor participatory approaches to systematically map, identify and analyse global drivers and pressures with high environmental, societal and economic impacts affecting 33 key hubs examining sustainability of fish farming, multiple use of forests, tourism, mining and indigenous cultures.

The outcome of ArcticHubs will be the provision of solution-oriented tools, such as improved public participatory geographical information systems, guidelines for ‘social license to operate’, and future scenarios to Arctic communities, industrial stakeholders, decision- and policymakers, and other relevant actors. This will enable creation and implementation of regional development strategies that reconcile new economic opportunities with traditional livelihoods, and increase the resilience of both new and existing industries and livelihoods against environmental, economic and political changes in the Arctic. The impact of the project will be long-term sustainability and resilience of future environmental, socio-cultural, economic and political factors in the increasingly competitive and globalised arctic, enhancing social acceptance of increased economic activity. These impacts will contribute to the implementation of the new integrated EU policy for the Arctic, IPPC assessments and other major regional and global initiatives, provide support to the EU Arctic Research Cluster, and enhance engagement of and interaction between local (incl. indigenous), national and global actors.

As a unique, technically oriented node in this collaborative project, researchers in Machine Design are working to develop an unmanned off-road vehicle platform with intelligent control systems that ultimately will demonstrate the possibility of better utilisation of local ecosystem services through the implementation of 'Lean Forestry'. This new way of looking at how forests can - and should - be used, demands new methods for machine operations in the boreal forest belt: While economic profitability must be achieved, other ecosystem services, such as reindeer pastures or areas of intensive tourism, also need to be addressed; local areas that otherwise would be adversely affected by intensive forestry operations.