Adapting forest management to climate change in Europe: Linking perceptions to adaptive responses

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Climate change will impact forests and may impair their ability to provide essential ecosystem services in the decades to come. Addressing this challenge requires adjustments to forest management strategies as of now, but it is still unclear to what extent this is already in progress. Using data from surveys of 1131 forest owners and managers from seven European countries, the study assesses how they perceive their role in adapting forest management to climate change. The surveys focused on foresters' observations of climate change impacts, the degree to which climate change is a part of their operational and strategic management, and their ability to address related risks and opportunities.

The study researchers found evidence of a strong continent-wide climate change awareness among respondents, with 73% foresters convinced that climate change will impact their forest. However, only about one-third (36%) reported having modified their management practices, though figures vary widely between countries, from 14% in Portugal to 57% in Slovakia. Among the constraints limiting their actions, lack of knowledge and information emerged as a major barrier towards forest adaptation. Differences between countries could be linked to their socio-economic and political contexts. 

The results further suggest that severely damaging events, such as windstorms, fires and pest outbreaks, present relevant opportunities to engage people with climate change and encourage action. Further work needs to be done in strengthening the relationship between scientific research and practice, working out context dependent measures to foster adaptation to changing climate and disturbance regimes in forest management.

Full reference:

Sousa-Silva, R., Verbist, B., Lomba, Â., Valent, P., Suškevičs, M., Picard, O., Hoogstra-Klein, M.A., Cosofret, V-C, Bouriaud, L., Ponette, Q., Verheyen, K., Muys, B. 2018. Adapting forest management to climate change in Europe: Linking perceptions to adaptive responses.  Forest Policy and Economics (90), 22-30.