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Surface waters: The overlooked factor in the forestry climate mitigation debate (SURFER)

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Project period
The Research Council of Norway
Research section
Catchment Biogeochemistry
Contact person
Øyvind Kaste

About the project

Climate change affects large parts of the world with rising temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns and extreme weather events. Norway is pursuing sustainable climate mitigation strategies and intensified forestry practices to increase biomass harvesting (e.g. nitrogen fertilization, intensified stem-only and/or whole-tree harvesting) are being used to rapidly transit to a «sustainable low emission society». The decision to intensify forest biomass use has led to debate in Norway, both scientifically and publicly. While the debate is still ongoing, other potential environmental concerns might have been overseen, in particular the potential effects of intensified forestry on surface waters. Norway's lakes and rivers deliver a number of invaluable services including drinking water, recreational opportunities and habitat for a wide range of species. However, surface waters are mostly absent from the current climate mitigation debate.

The interdisciplinary research project SURFER («Surface waters: The overlooked factor in the forestry climate mitigation debate») addresses various effects of intensified forestry practices on surface waters. Our goal is to provide guidance tools allowing water managers, decision makers and stakeholders to safeguard valuable surface water ecosystems in Norway.

We address forestry effects on surface waters on different levels:

  • Water policy, by investigating how intensified forestry for climate mitigation reconciles with current Norwegian laws and directives.
  • Trade-offs between intensified forestry for climate mitigation and surface water acidification.
  • Effects of intensified forestry on biogeochemical cycles, mobilization of pollutants and freshwater biodiversity on multiple spatial scales.
  • The potential effects of forest fertilization on water quality in sensitive drinking water catchment in Norway.

The project is funded by The Research Council of Norway.

More information about SURFER

Publications and reports

Salar Valinia, Øyvind Kaste & Richard F. Wright (2020) Intensified forestry as a climate mitigation measure alters surface water quality in low intensity managed forests, Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research, DOI: 10.1080/02827581.2020.1854339

Frode Sundnes , Marianne Karlsson, Froukje Maria Platjouw, Nicholas Clarke, Øyvind Kaste, Salar Valinia (2020) Climate mitigation and intensified forest management in Norway: To what extent are surface waters safeguarded? Environmental effects of a green bio-economy.

Benoît Demars, Jonas Persson, Nikolai Friberg (2020) Development of a holistic conceptual framework to assess the effects of intensified forestry on aquatic ecosystem services and biodiversity in Norway. NIVA note.

Martyn Futter, Nicholas Clarke, Øyvind Kaste, Salar Valinia (2019) The potential effects on water quality of intensified forest management for climate mitigation in Norway. NIVA report 7363-2019

Øyvind Kaste, Richard F. Wright, Salar Valinia (2019) Intensified forestry as a climate mitigation measure – how can it affect critical loads for S and N deposition? NIVA report 7436-2019.

Leah Jackson-Blake, François Clayer (2020) Assessment of risks to drinking water provision in Glitrevann from forest fertilization and harvesting.NIVA report 7458-2020



Norsk institutt for vannforskning (NIVA)

Norsk institutt for bioøkonomi (NIBIO)

Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet (SLU)

Reference group

Toralf Terum, Landbruksdirektoratet 

Gunnar Skotte, Miljødirektoratet – arts og vannavdelingen 

Christian Svenkerud, Glommen Skog, Elverum 

Trond Rian, Fylkesmannen i Trøndelag, skog/landbruk 

Terje Olav Ryd, Lier/Drammen kommuner 

Åsa Renman, Sabima  


Nitrogengjødsling og konsekvenser for vannmiljøet (2017). Press relase NIVA.  

Overvåker vannkvaliteten i marka (2017). NRK Buskerud.  

Tester ut nitrogengjødsling i Finnemarka (2017). Lierposten.