Do Environmental Worldviews and Distrust Influence Action for Adaptation to Environmental Change Among Small-Scale Woodland Managers?

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgements

This study has been prepared as an output for Programme 3 in the UK Forestry Commission’s Science and Innovation Strategy 2015–2019. The research described was co-ordinated by Dr Bianca Ambrose-Oji, but involved data collected as part of the British Woodlands Survey (BWS) 2015 and 2017. BWS 2015 was a collaborative project between Sylva Foundation, University of Oxford, Forestry Commission England and The Woodland Trust. BWS 2017 was a collaborative project between Sylva Foundation, University of Oxford, Forest Research and The Woodland Trust, led by Sylva Foundation with support from the Scottish Forestry Trust, Lord Farringdon Charitable Trust and Forestry Commission Scotland. Dr. Suzanne Raum and Dr. Mieria Pecurul-Botines undertook some of the data collection and interviews with land managers.

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Ethical approval for this study was granted by an internal review panel (Research Quality Management System, social and economic research ethics group), and all procedures followed were in accordance with the UK Government Social Research Profession ethical code of conduct.

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Informed consent was obtained from all participants for being included in the study, whether in the survey or the semi-structured interviews. This consent included the use of anonymised qualitative data in the form of quotes. All data was managed in accordance with the UK Data Protection Act 2018.

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Ambrose-Oji, B., Atkinson, M., Petrokofsky, G. et al. Do Environmental Worldviews and Distrust Influence Action for Adaptation to Environmental Change Among Small-Scale Woodland Managers?. Small-scale Forestry 19, 159–185 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11842-020-09440-x

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Keywords

  • New Ecological Paradigm
  • Dominant Social Paradigm
  • Diversification
  • Forest owners
  • Behaviour
  • Adaptation actions