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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: Group Lead - Land and People; Research Lead – Natural Capital Valuation. Maria 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 Award of the International Union of Forest Ressearch Organizations (IUFRO) for her outstanding contributions to social science research on forestry, climate change and social innovation , Awardee of Scientific Achievement Honour in recognition of her destinquished research in the field and effectual Scientific Knowledge Exchange with Ukraine, IUFRO-2022 Recognition, and she is 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 exceeds 400 items, with about 70 scientific journal articles. She is a reviewer and Guest Editor for top ranking in her field of science international journals, books, tenders and projects. Maria co-supervised several PhD students, who have been exceptionally successful, including Dr Peter Orrell - the winner of the Converge Challenge 2018 Award and Dr Mariana Melnykovych who completed her PhD research under the Memorandum of Understanding between the National Forestry University (UNFU), Ukraine and the James Hutton Institute


Coordinator of the Bringing in participatory approaches to widen the scope of natural capital valuation | The James Hutton Institute project funded by the Scottish Government (SG) RESAS Strategic Research Programme (SRP) 2022-2027; Contributor to the SG SRP projects on Climate change impacts on Natural Capital (led by Mike Rivington) and on Informing a socially and spatially just future for the Scottish rural economy (led by Jon Hopkins).

Coordinator of the H2020 project on Social Innovation (SI) in Marginalised Rural Areas  No: 677622 - SIMRA – RIA, Topic: ISIB-03-2015 - Unlocking the growth potential of rural areas through enhanced governance and SI (2016-2020): The Consortium was of 26 partners from 15 countries; 15 more were involved, including Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, Ukraine. It was rated by the EC and the media as a very successful project, with high impact.

Coordinator of the IMPARA proposal on Impacts of social innovation in marginalised rural areas, submitted to the EC. Principal investigator on the Horizon Europe project RURACTIVE - EMPOWERING RURAL COMMUNITIES TO ACT FOR CHANGE, 2023-2027.

Team member of the H2020 projects of Sherpa (Sustainable Hub to Engage into Rural Policies with Actors, HUTTON's PI - David Miller) and FirEuRisk (Developing a holistic, risk-wise strategy for European wildfire management, HUTTON's PI - Michaela Roberts)

Maria has been HUTTON’s leading economist on Natural Assets of the Scottish Government Strategic Research Programme (2016-2022) and Coordinator of the strand on Social Innovation. She contributed to EUH2020 (Project Agricultural knowledge: linking farmers, advisors & researchers to boost innovation) AgriLink, and led on Knowledge Integration, Scenarios and Recommendations for the Future of EU COST Action on "Enhancing the resilience capacity of sensitive mountain forest ecosystems under environmental change (SENSFOR)", and was a Member of the Steering and Management Committees of SENSFOR.

Maria was the module leader of EC FP7 REDD-ALERT project on Reducing Emissions form Deforestation and Degradation; member of the Scottish Centre of Expertise on Climate Change and of the Ecosystem Service Community Scotland (ESCOM, Process area co-Leader). Maria has been a Member of the Scientific Advisory Boards on H2020 projects of InnoForESt (Smart information, governance and business innovations for sustainable supply and PES) and MATILDE (Migration Impact Assessment to Enhance Integration and Local Development in European Rural and Mountain Areas), and a  member of the Committees on EC COST Actions FP1203 (Non-Wood Forest Products) and FP1207 (Forest-Related Policies).

Past research

Maria coordinated/contributed to EU projects/tenders of VISULANDS, ALTER-NET and REDD-ALERT, FORMOUNT, including H2020 SIMRA Coordination, BIOMES, UPDERPIN and many others. Among numerous projects of the past, 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 20/03/23 08:54:45 AM

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.