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Resilience thinking: a new paradigm for the forestry sector?

What are currently the main drivers of change in the forest: climate change or socio-economic changes? What determines the adaptive capacity of the forests? How do we cope with uncertainties? Those were the structuring questions that researchers and practitioners proposed to the audience during an interactive session at ESOF2018. 

A new paradigm is needed in the forestry sector: resilience thinking, which favours adaptive management strategies to cope with uncertainty and keep options open, as opposed to stability thinking, which fixes a target objective and assumes minimum uncertainty.. © Inra, François Lefèvre
Published on 09/13/2018

The ESOF2018 seminar « Resilience and adaptation of forest social-ecological systems in the context of global change » gathered François Lefèvre (National Institute for Agricultural Research - INRA, France), Teresa Baiges Zapater (Catalonia Centre de la Propietat Forestal - CPF, Spain), Davide Pettenella (University of Padova - TESAF, Italy) and Georg Winkel (European Forest Institute - EFI, Germany). The attendees were introduced to the notions of forest dynamics and social-ecological systems through a game-based learning platform. The four speakers synthesized their findings to deliver some key messages on forest adaptation to climate change and to test solution options with the attendees.

Key messages to take home

« Forest systems are particularly at risk due to climate change because they are perennial, but they are also part of the solution », reminded the researchers.
 They underlined that forests are dynamic systems that continuously evolve and that, in most parts of the world, and in the EU in particular, forests are social-ecological systems which dynamics is driven by the interplay of natural processes and human actions. All forestry decisions and actions have short term and long term impacts on forest dynamics over decades that need to be considered jointly.

In the context of change, there are multiple uncertainties regarding the response of the forests to disturbance and management. Higher uncertainties in the long term require to avoid sacrificing future bunch of options for short term objectives. According to the experts, using diverse forest management practices, and enabling forest governance that encourage diversity rather than « one solution fitting all » are critical. They also believe that forest governance should allow experimentation to face uncertain future.

Testing the acceptability of different options

All the participants of the session were able to vote for the solutions that seem more appropriate to them. Diversifying management facing an uncertain future and adapting management regularly with increased knowledge and experience were the preferred strategies for adapting Europe’s forest to climate change, according to the results of this interactive session. Intensifying timber harvest to incentivise regeneration or strictly protect forest to allow natural adaptation did not seem to collect the approval of the attendees, despite their viability as adaptation option.
The representative of forest owners stressed that we need to enable the conditions for forest management to be possible: this implies to recognise the benefits of forests to people and the key role of forest managers in providing them.

In conclusion, “a new paradigm is needed in the forestry sector: resilience thinking, which favours adaptive management strategies to cope with uncertainty and keep options open, as opposed to stability thinking, which fixes a target objective and assumes minimum uncertainty”, champions François Lefèvre, who coordinated this ESOF2018 session.

Contact(s)
Scientific contact(s):

Associated Division(s):
Forest, Grassland and Freshwater Ecology

Find out more

« Resilience and adaptation of forest social-ecological systems in the context of global change » was one of the session organized during the 8th edition of the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) (9 to 14 July 2018, Toulouse, France). The European biennal is the largest interdisciplinary meeting on science and innovation in Europe and their place in society.

ESOF 2018 : https://www.esof.eu/en/

Project INFORMED (Integrated research on forest resilience and management in the Mediterranean): https://www6.inra.fr/informed-foresterra_eng/

Resilience blog of the European Forest Institute EFI, Bonn: https://resilience-blog.com/