A new paper published this month demonstrates a clear relationship between the prevailing ecological worldviews of land owners and their distrust in policy, and their willingness to adopt practices that will help adaptation to environmental change.

I co-authored the paper with colleagues Forest Research and the University of Oxford which explored how forest owners are responding to the challenges of managing for environmental change.

We used the New Ecological Paradigm, which is also the basis for my Ecotypes project, to understand ecological worldviews, and explored respondents’ distrust in policy, practice, and research in supporting their land management activities.

Ambrose-Oji, B., Atkinson, M., Petrokofsky, G. and Hemery, G. (2020). Do Environmental Worldviews and Distrust Influence Action for Adaptation to Environmental Change Among Small-Scale Woodland Managers? Small-Scale Forestry (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11842-020-09440-x


Forest and woodland owners and managers are generally perceived to be acting slowly in addressing environmental change by adapting their forestry practice. Diversification of tree species composition and stand structure is widely promoted as one adaptive approach to increasing the resilience of forests to climate change and other threats. Land manager behaviour is known to be affected by structural and psychological barriers to action. This study used data from a national survey and qualitative interviews among different types of forest owners and managers in the UK, including large- and small-scale woodland managers, to explore their intention to make changes to their forest management and the uptake of species diversification as an adaptation practice. The revised New Ecological Paradigm (NEP) was applied as a measure of worldview, which helped to explain some aspects of their decisions to take up diversification as an action to increase resilience. There were significant interactions between NEP and discredence—i.e. distrust in science or policy recommendations—and woodland size and the uptake of diversification. Many small-scale woodland managers hold strong ecological worldviews which can act against active adaptation because of a belief in the power of nature to adapt, or a mistrust of applying recommendations which might represent “doing the wrong thing”. Research and policy processes that involve owners and managers are more likely to incorporate these climate change rationalities and adaptation logics. The framing, salience and robustness of climate change adaptation information emerges as important for all forest owners and managers and requires additional attention by scientists and policy makers.

Read the full Article

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