Canadian Forest Service Publications

Assessing the potential for forest management practitioner participation in climate change adaptation. 2015. Nelson, H.W.; Williamson, T.B.; Macaulay, C.; Mahoney, C. Forest Ecology and Management 360(2016):388-399.

Year: 2015

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 36485

Language: English

Availability: Order paper copy (free), PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1016/j.foreco.2015.09.038

† This site may require a fee

Mark record


The sensitivity of forests to local climate and the long time periods involved in forest management combine to result in conditions where forests and forest management are vulnerable to climate change. Minimizing the risks and impacts of climate change on forest management outcomes and reducing the vulnerability of forest management systems requires adaptation. Forest management system adaptation is a multi-scale incremental process that involves diverse actors collaborating to define issues, develop options, and implement solutions. Enabling adaptation may require revising assumptions (e.g., assumptions about stationary climate), upgrading formal and informal institutions (including mandates), re-engineering governance, addressing knowledge gaps and information management issues, and changing practices. Given the heightened uncertainty associated with climate change, adaptation also includes enhancing capacities, reducing risks through diversification, increasing flexibility, and enhancing resiliency by creating decision environments conducive to learning, foresight, knowledge integration, and adaptive management. Forest management practitioners have a fundamental role in identifying, evaluating, and implementing climate change adaptation measures. This study develops and applies a framework (derived from recent scholarship on adaptation) for assessing the perceptions of forest management practitioners about issues, challenges, and factors that they consider important relative to their potential to contribute to climate change adaptation. The framework draws from, and ties together various aspects of adaptation process including psychological factors, knowledge management, forest management capacity, institutions and governance, and the state of information methods that support forest management (i.e., planning, monitoring, and assessment). The framework is applied utilizing the results of surveys of forest practitioners in British Columbia, Canada. The application provides an opportunity to test concepts and to identify key barriers from a practitioner perspective. Proof of concept is tested by evaluating the extent to which respondents were able and willing to provide answers to survey questions. In general, responses were robust suggesting some understanding and recognition of the importance and validity of the underlying adaptation concepts by forest professionals. The results suggest that forest professionals have diverse viewpoints about climate change. The majority is concerned and support adaptation. However, a significant minority do not support modification of current forest management. Discourse, education, and engagement are called for. Other key factors that from the perspective of professionals may reduce participation potential include knowledge deficits, lack of mandate to adapt, limited resources for adaptation, institutional barriers, inadequate assessment, and persistence of planning and monitoring approaches that do not account for climate change.

Plain Language Summary

Reducing the impacts of climate change on forest management will require the engagement and participation of forest management professionals. Little is known about the factors that affect how much these professionals participate in this process. In this study we developed a framework for assessing the potential for forest management practitioners to contribute to climate change adaptation. We then used the results of two surveys of forest professionals conducted by the Association of BC Forest Professionals to demonstrate how our framework can be applied. We mapped the survey questions to particular concepts in our framework. The results showed that forest professionals in British Columbia are concerned about climate change and they are prepared to adapt to it, although they hold diverse and sometimes conflicting viewpoints about climate change. These professionals believe that a number of key issues or barriers affect their potential to participate in the adaptation process, including lack of knowledge and training, limitations to the availability of resources for adaptation, lack of mechanisms for sharing and integrating pertinent knowledge, lack of a mandate to adapt, and reliance on planning and monitoring approaches that do not account for climate change. Our assessment framework can be applied in other contexts.