Motive Project

Article alert: Climate change adaptive capacity of the Canadian forest sector

by: Ulla Vänttinen

Johnston, M. and Hesseln, H., 2012. Climate change adaptive capacity of the Canadian forest sector. Forest Policy and Economics, in press.


Canada's forests will be affected by climate change to a greater degree than many other regions. The ability of the Canadian forest sector to successfully adapt to climate change, i.e. its adaptive capacity, was assessed through a series of group discussions and interviews with a variety of forestry stakeholders across Canada. The assessment was oriented to the following determinants of adaptive capacity:

1) The range of available technological options for adaptation that would be considered in response to a perceived climate-related stress
2) The availability of resources
3) The structure and functionality of critical institutions to understand the allocation of decision‐making authority, institutional flexibility, and the decision criteria that would be employed; 4) Human and social capital, including the distribution of educational achievement, differential access to personal security and robust property rights
5) The system's (and individuals’) access to risk-spreading processes (both formal and informal)
6) Decision-makers’ ability to manage information, the processes by which these decision-makers determine which information is credible, and the credibility of the decision-makers themselves.

Forest managers were generally optimistic about their ability to identify and implement adaptation options at the forest management unit level. However, institutional barriers were seen to be a major impediment; managers identified tenure reform and a more flexible regulatory environment as essential for the innovation that will be required by climate change. Other factors limiting adaptive capacity include lack of financial resources and low levels of investment in the forest sector, lack of specialized science capacity in climate change impacts and the long-term nature of planning required by long-lived forest species. Several non-governmental institutions may support increased adaptive capacity including forest certification systems, Criteria and Indicators of Sustainable Forest Management, Canada's model forest program and others. However, these institutions will need to be modified in order to support forest managers in planning for climate change.

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