, Volume 131, Issue 5, pp 1367-1379
Date: 14 Feb 2012

Decision support systems in forest management: requirements from a participatory planning perspective

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Participatory approaches and computerised tools such as decision support systems (DSS) represent conflicting tendencies in state-of the-art sustainable forest management. As a result, there may be considerable tension between these two developments in practice. The objective of this paper is to explore how participatory approaches and DSS could be brought together to improve planning processes and to explore how DSS could be adapted in their use or combined with other tools to enable successful participatory planning. From a review of the literature, we identified criteria related to successful participatory planning. From these criteria, we selected those a DSS can influence and created a short list of the criteria that could be used to evaluate participatory processes where DSS are applied. The evaluation criteria with particular relevance for DSS that we identified are as follows: fairness, opportunity to influence outcome, quality and selection of information, cost-effectiveness, challenging status quo and fostering creative thinking, structured decision-making process, transparency, and independence and neutrality of process. We also scrutinised existing forest DSS and identified features that may enable DSS to address these criteria. The features of DSS we identified that may support participatory processes are as follows: group decision support, possibilities to include other values than timber production, flexibility of system to include non-traditional forest data and management options, and multi-criteria decision analysis tools. We argue that the DSS to be used should be assessed to clarify, how it can be used in the specific planning situation and how it should be complemented with other available and non-computerised tools.

Communicated by M. Moog.