Perceptions of adaptation in forest management

M.M. Moshofsky, R. Hajjar, and R.A. Kozak

Forest management is presently undergoing major changes to adapt to a changing climate. The objective of this research is to examine the variation in perceived acceptability of potential forest management interventions that can mitigate the risks of climate change among stakeholders in British Columbia (BC) and Alberta (AB). A mixed method research design was developed that included surveys, focus groups, and Q-sort analysis. Online surveys were administered to the general public and leaders of forest-dependent communities in BC and AB to determine their levels of acceptability of various intervention strategies for forest adaptation (ranging from a “do nothing” approach, a status quo option, assisted migration, and genetically engineering optimal growth in future climates), as well as to assess their knowledge and perception of risk of climate change and reforestation technologies. Online surveys were also administered to registered professional foresters and biologists in BC, assessing their levels of knowledge and their perceptions of efficacy of assisted migration strategies. In addition to the surveys, focus groups were conducted in four case-study communities to provide an in-depth analysis of stakeholder perceptions. Three qualitative focus groups were conducted in each community and an exit Q-sort was administered to measure perceived acceptability to a set of nine forest adaptation management scenarios. With analysis underway, preliminary results indicate that professional foresters perceive the status quo management option as the most acceptable, indicating in Q-sorts that the natural regeneration scenario is perceived better than scenarios featuring assisted migration in some cases. Business owners were observed to perceive the status quo scenario as most acceptable, in some cases remarking on the importance of adapting human behaviour to the changing environment. Environmentalists’ responses varied widely by region with some regarding assisted migration as the most acceptable and some preferring the status quo. Ultimately, it appears that a hesitance to accept human capability to project climatic and ecosystem changes on the landscape informs the perceived acceptability of all management scenarios.