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Maria Nijnik

Staff picture: Maria Nijnik
Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences
Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences
Principal Researcher
+44 (0)1224 395305

The James Hutton Institute
Aberdeen AB15 8QH
Scotland UK


Maria Nijnik is a natural resource, ecological and climate change economist and a social scientist who has worked at the Institute since 2002, after a period of postdoctoral research at the Free University, Amsterdam, and Wageningen University, in the Netherlands. She has a PhD in Social Sciences from Wageningen University in co-operation with the University of Victoria in Canada. Also, she has post-graduate qualifications from the Mansholt Institute and the Netherlands Network of General and Quantitative Economics (NAKE), a MSc in Environmental Policy and Management (EPCEM) from the Network of Dutch Universities, and a MSc/Dipl. Engineer’s degree with Distinction in forestry and wood-processing technology. She also has PhD in Economics, and is Professor in Forest Policy and Economics, Awardee of the Scientific Achievement Honour in recognition of her destinquished research in the field and effectual Scientific Knowledge Exchange with Ukraine and a holder of several of BBSRC exceptional Performance Awards.

Current research interests

Maria’s work centres on the socio-economic aspects of global changes, including climate change, and land-use and landscape changes, with a particular focus on the resilience of social-ecological systems, multifunctional and sustainable management and use of natural assets. This includes work on the institutional aspects and economics of tackling climate change through LULUCF, the role of woodlands and forestry in the development of marginalised rural areas and communities, with a special focus on mountain regions, evaluation of ecosystem services, stakeholder evaluation and public attitudes to identifying resilient interventions for multiple benefits from using natural assets and managing of trade-offs, human dimensions of global changes and social innovation. The total list of publications includes 300 items, with ca 60 scientific articles in peer-refereed journals. She is a reviewer for top ranking in her field of science international journals, books, tenders and projects. Maria has co-supervised several PhD students, who have been exceptionally successful, including Dr Peter Orrell - the winner of the Converge Challenge 2018 Award and Mariana Melnykovych conducting her PhD research under the Memorandum of Understanding between the National Forestry University (UNFU), Ukraine and the James Hutton Institute


  • Maria took a lead in the Netherlands’ Palace Symposium “Depopulation of rural areas: analyses and perspectives” held on June 15, 2017, in the Royal Palace of Amsterdam The ideas from the symposium were met with interest and encouragement by the honourable audience, which included HMs the King and Queen of the Netherlands, members of the Dutch Royal Family, representatives of the Amsterdam Royal Palace Foundation, the Mayor’s Office of Amsterdam City, Heads of Municipalities and others.

  • The FAO  ‘Forestry for a low-carbon future: Integrating forests and wood products in climate change strategies’ publication was launched on 20 July 2016 in the Sheik Zayed Centre, FAO, Rome during COFO 23. It was the final product of the project “The economics of forest climate change mitigation options” with 113 contributors, including Maria from the James Hutton Institute, UK, to produce an ‘open book’ and  a great learning experience for all involved, from different countries and organizations.

  • European Forestry Institute book “What Science Can Tell Us: Forest Bioenergy for Europe”  - collaborative effort of experts from 12 countries with a leading role of Maria is now widely advertised here.
  • The potential offered by social innovation to improve the livelihoods of remote forest-dependent communities was at the centre of discussions during the special session  organised and chaired by Maria (together with her PhD student, Mariana Melnykovych) at the 125th Anniversary Congress of the International Union of Forest Research Organisations  held in Freiburg, 18-22 September, 2017
  • On June 7, 2018, Maria presented the case of social innovation at the Workshop on How to enhance innovation in rural areas organised by the Scottish Representation to the EU in Brussels, the European Commission.

Ongoing and recent projects:

Coordinator of the H2020 project Social Innovation in Marginalised Rural Areas (SIMRA No: 677622 - SIMRA – RIA, Topic: ISIB-03-2015 - Unlocking the growth potential of rural areas through enhanced governance and social innovation (SI); duration: April 2016-2020) funded by the European Commission (EUR 5 577.203,75 Euros) and Maria works with David Miller, who is in charge of the SIMRA management and administration and with Carla Barlagne, Margaret McKeen and Richard Hewitt. The SIMRA Consortium consists of 26 partners, including 8 universities and 2 research institutes, 8 non-profit organizations, 5 SMEs, NGOs and networks, and 3 international organizations. Organizations from 15 countries directly contribute to SIMRA. In addition, 15 more countrieswill be involved, including Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania and Morocco and a number of countries from Eastern Europe. SIMRA’s media links are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Scoop It!

Maria also leads the Social Innovation strand of the Scottish Government Strategic Research Programme (SGSRP 2016-2021). In 2011 - 2016, she was PI of the James Hutton Institute on the forestry strands of research on Land Use for Multiple Benefits and Valuation of Ecosystem Services, including on green accounting of the SGSRP.

Maria has led Knowledge Integration, Scenarios and Recommendations for the Future, as well as the UK component of EU COST Action ES1203 "Enhancing the resilience capacity of sensitive mountain forest ecosystems under environmental (including climate) change (SENSFOR)", being a Member of the Steering and Management Committees on this project. She has also been the module leader of EC FP7 REDD-ALERT project on Reducing Emissions form Deforestation and Degradation. Maria is member of the Scottish Centre of Expertise on Climate Change (CxC) and of the Ecosystem Service Community Scotland (ESCOM). She has been the leading economist on the WP "Management of Natural Assets" of the SGSRP, 2016-2021 with her main contribution to the delivery of strategic research on Social Innovation and the Land Use for Multiple Benefits. 

Maria is International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) Office holder – Coordinator of Unit 4.05.05  – Social Innovation and entrepreneurship She is a Scientific Steering Committee member of "Science for the Carpathians (S4C)" and member of a number of scientific and expert committees, bodies and boards, including the Scientific Advisory Board | European Forest Institute, Scientific Advisory Council for EURAC, Advisory Board on H2020 InnoForESt project (Smart information, governance and business innovations for sustainable supply and payment mechanisms for forest ecosystem services) innoforest ; member of the Management Committees of COST Action FP1203 on Non-Wood Forest Products and COST Action FP1207 on Forest-Related Policies Actions/fps/FP1207 . She is Scientific Board member of Journal of the Commission for Protection of Natural Environment, Polish National Academy, Editorial Board member of “Proceedings of the Ukraine’s Forestry Academy" and Guest Editor of Forest Policy and Economics, etc.

Past research

Maria coordinated/contributed to EU projects/tenders of VISULANDS, ALTER-NET and REDD-ALERT, FORMOUNT, including H2020 SIMRA Coordination, BIOMES, UPDERPIN and others. Among numerous projects, she co-ordinated the UK component of COST Action FP0703 "Expected Climate Change and Options for European Silviculture" (ECHOES) and co-led on Climate Change Mitigation through forestry-based activities for Europe (34 countries). She led the Ecosystem Services Valuation component of the project on Nature Conservation and Ecosystem Service Delivery funded by the JNCC. The coordinated by Maria project "Forestry and Climate Change: a Socio-Economic Perspective" was the Institute’s contribution to the first National Assessment of Forestry and Climate Change ("Combating Climate Change – A Role for UK Forests"). 

Printed from /staff/maria-nijnik on 18/08/19 08:01:41 PM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.