We know we need to ditch fossil fuels and reduce emissions, and fast. But how can we do so in the context of burgeoning global demand for food, fuel and fiber? Many countries are turning to biological sources to meet these needs. The system they’re building may be nascent, but it already has a name: the bio-economy. The move seems timely. As always, though, there are potential tradeoffs at play, and the stakes are high. For instance, diverting agricultural land from food to energy crops will affect food supply and smallholder livelihoods, and may push food production into forested areas. So when weighing up the merits of various strategies to transition to a bio-based economy, it’s important to keep forests – and the people living in and around them – firmly in the picture. As such, a research project “Forests in the Global Bioeconomy” aims to generate knowledge on this topic in order to inform upcoming policy dialogues and processes. The work represents a collaboration between the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the Bonn-based Center for Development Research (ZEF) and Indonesia’s Bogor Agricultural University (IPB). The project focusses chiefly on experiences in Brazil and Indonesia, which are both key global biomass producers with large tropical forest reserves.