Forest management is crucial for adapting the forest to future climate change in Sweden. By increasing the proportion of deciduous and mixed forests, as well as increasing the diversity with regard to, for example, felling age and thinning models, the forest can better withstand increased risk of injury as a warmer climate brings with it. With a high proportion of privately owned forests, private forest owners therefore make a decisive link in the climate adaptation of Swedish forests. How forest owners perceive climate change and adapt their forest management reflects how far climate adaptation has come into practice. In addition, in promoting climate adaptation, it is important to understand various driving forces, both individually and socially, to adapt forest management to a changing climate.
In order to analyze forest owners’ climate adaptation, a survey was conducted based on a random sample of private forest owners in Sweden, a total of 1482 owners between the ages of 20 and 80. The study analyzed the owners’ driving forces for climate change, but also the owners’ response to possible measures that could be used to encourage climate change. The results of the survey are also interpreted in the light of a previously conducted interview study with forest owners about risks and damage in the forest.
Conservative start of climate adaptions
The will to reduce the risk of damages in the forest is affected by assessments of the risk as well as the possibility of working with damage prevention. If, for example, the owners assess climate change as a serious threat to their own forest and perceive that forest management strategies are in place to handle the problems, the motivation to do something is strengthened. However, the study shows that damage as a result of climate change was perceived as a relatively insignificant threat to the forest owner’s own forest within a period of 10 years, and a lesser threat than, for example, storm damage, grazing damage, and damage to insects and fungi. Although climate change was perceived as a more serious threat in the longer term – a period of 100 years – the perception that other damages and risks are more eagerly mean that climate change is given a lower priority among the owners. Because storm damage is also expected to increase with climate change and these were perceived to be serious. However, adaptation of the forest to avoid these damage can also contribute to a more climate-adapted forest.
Similar to other studies, this study shows that climate change of the forest is in its infancy. The study shows, for example, that forest owners have so far adapted their forests by, to some extent, working on site-adaptions, improving storm resistance and increasing the proportion of deciduous and mixed forests. However, the owners have very little extent used more transformative measures such as planting new tree species (e.g. larch). In addition to the fact that climate change is perceived to be something that will happen in the future, possible reasons for climate adaptations can slowly be an experience of both the increased damage risks that climate change is expected to bring but also how to act to adapt their forest to climate change. In addition, forest owners tend to show a rather optimistic view of how climate change may affect their forests.
Tailored measures to support climate adaptations
The study also analyzed how the owners responded to two policy measures – advice and an economic subsidy for increased climate adaptations. Both perceptions of forest production and the social context had an impact on how the owners responded to action. For example, forest owners that perceived forest production as important and belonged to a social context where risk management was encouraged was to a greater extent willing to climate adapt their forest regardless of action. However, the results also showed that, in comparison with advice, the financial subsidies more strongly reinforced the motivation of climate change among owners who emphasized production values and owners in social contexts where risk management was not encouraged. It may therefore be important to tailor the measures for different groups of forest owners to achieve the greatest effect.
Based on the factors that reinforce the owners’ perception that climate change poses a threat to their own forests and factors that help owners see opportunities to act, measures can be taken to encourage climate adaptations. For example, the social context makes important influences for perceived opportunities to deal with climate risks. As forest authorities and organizations consistently demonstrate that climate adaptations is necessary and provides support, forest owners’ climate adaptation can be encouraged. However, the individual forest owners’ motives also play a role and it is therefore necessary, for example, to show how climate adaptation can be important for achieving different values in the forest, both production and biodiversity. Structural measures, such as financial subsidies, can be used to accelerate some type of adaptation, for example, to encourage new and unusual forest management strategies.
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Eriksson, L. (2017) The importance of threat, strategy, and resource appraisals for long-term proactive risk management among forest owners in Sweden, Journal of Risk Research, 20 (7) 868-886.
Eriksson, L. (2018) Conventional and new ways of governing forest threats: A study of stakeholder coherence in Sweden, Environmental Management, 61, 103-115.
Eriksson, L. (2018) Effects of policy measures and moderating factors on climate change adaptation among private forest owners in Sweden, Society and Natural Resources, 31(4), 409-423.