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Perceptions of Small Private Forest Owner’s Vulnerability and Adaptive Capacity to Environmental Disturbances and Climate Change: Views from a Heterogeneous Population in Southern Quebec, Canada

Abstract

A study on the perception of vulnerability and adaptive capacity to climate change (CC) was realised among 27 small private forest owners (SPFOs) of a region in southern Quebec. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with SPFOs of diverse profiles to better understand their perception of environmental disturbances and their needs to improve forest management in relation to global change and more precisely to CC. The main purpose of the research was to better understand whether perceptions of vulnerability and adaptive capacity to CC can constitute a barrier to proactive actions toward adaptation. Qualitative data shows a spectrum of attitudes and perceptions which highlight how SPFOs identify different potential and actual disturbances and assess the risk they represent for their forest-based activities. It shows how place-based experiences of environmental disturbances shape perceptions of vulnerability and capacity to adapt to disturbances. Factors such as access to financial resources and perceived resilience of forest ecosystem influence perceived adaptive capacity. Most SPFOs who participated in the research do not perceive their forest or forest-based activities to be vulnerable to CC, which may constitute a barrier to proactive adaptation to CC. The awareness of CC as a general phenomenon does necessarily translate into adaptation in forestry practices. Yet, many participants expressed a need for better access to knowledge and financial support to improve adaptive capacities to CC and broader environmental or economic stressors.

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Acknowledgements

This work is part of the project Forêt s’Adapter supported by the program Fonds de développement régional of the Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs du Québec and managed by the Conférence régionale des élus Vallée-du-Haut-Saint-Laurent (CRÉ VHSL). We are grateful to Régent Gravel and Claire Lachance of the CRÉ VHSL for all their support. We also would like to thank Alain Dubuc of the COOP des frontières for his very active collaboration. Annie Montpetit should also be acknowledged for her important contribution in the development of the initial questionnaire. Finally, we would like to thank all participants of this study for their time and generosity.

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Correspondence to Jean-François Bissonnette.

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Bissonnette, JF., Dupras, J., Doyon, F. et al. Perceptions of Small Private Forest Owner’s Vulnerability and Adaptive Capacity to Environmental Disturbances and Climate Change: Views from a Heterogeneous Population in Southern Quebec, Canada. Small-scale Forestry 16, 367–393 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11842-016-9361-y

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Keywords

  • Global change
  • Risk perception/tolerance
  • Resilience
  • Forest-based activities
  • Vulnerability
  • Adaptation