Canadian Forest Service Publications

Adapting sustainable forest management to climate change: an overview of approaches for assessing human adaptive capacity. 2013. Williamson, T.B.; Isaac, K.J. Canadian Council of Forest Ministers, Ottawa, Ontario. 22 p.

Year: 2013

Available from: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 35385

Language: English

CFS Availability: Order paper copy (free), PDF (download)

Abstract

Enough is now known about climate change to conclude that it will increase the adaptability requirements of the Canadian forest sector. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has defined adaptive capacity as “The ability of a system to adjust to climate change (including climate variability and extremes) to moderate potential damages, to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with the consequences.” This report presents an overview of assessment techniques, concepts, and approaches for describing and analyzing human adaptive capacity, and some general high-level options for enhancing it. One way of describing adaptive capacity is to identify and describe determinants or assets that contribute to it. In general terms, adaptive capacity determinants include human skills and knowledge about climate change, networks and partnerships, climate change science, and institutional capacity for adapting to the effects of climate change. Characterizing adaptive capacity may also involve describing processes and mechanisms used in mobilizing pertinent resources. There may also be instances where an understanding of the distribution of adaptive capacity among various stakeholders and interested parties is desired. A number of approaches can be used to obtain the information needed to describe adaptive capacity, including structured interviews, workshops, case histories, and the measurement and mapping of indicators. Methods of analyzing adaptive capacity include assessing requirements, assessing the degree to which current mobilization processes are efficient and effective, evaluating and assessing whether the distribution of adaptive capacity is equitable, and identifying barriers and system failures that may be impairing optimal investment in adaptive capacity. Options for enhancing adaptive capacity include investing in particular determinants, reducing barriers and constraints to rational investment in adaptive capacity, facilitating a more equitable distribution of pertinent resources, and modifying institutions and governance to enable adaptation where it is rational, feasible, and justified.

Plain Language Summary

This report, one in a series by Canadian Council of Forest Minister’s Climate Change Task Force, reviews approaches to assess the capacity of forest managers to adapt to climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has defined adaptive capacity as “The ability of a system to adjust to climate change (including climate variability and extremes) to moderate potential damages, to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with the consequences.” This report provides an overview of approaches to describing, analyzing, and managing adaptive capacity in a sustainable forest management (SFM) context. The first step is description: What kinds of resources, characteristics, and properties help participants, organizations, and “systems” (the network of organizations, communities, and policies) in SFM to adapt to climate change, and how do specific aspects of decision-making help these become more adaptable? The second step is analyzing adaptive capacity to determine whether it is adequate: Does climate change have implications for adaptability, and if so, what are they? The final step is to manage adaptive capacity to enhance responsiveness, resilience, preparedness, and flexibility. This structured approach can strengthen the ability of forest managers to manage their capacity to adapt to or cope with the effects of climate change on forest management.

Also available under the title:
Adapter l’aménagement forestier durable aux changements climatiques : aperçu des approches d’évaluation de la capacité d’adaptation humaine. (French)

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