Adapting through practice: Silviculture, innovation and forest governance for the age of extreme uncertainty


Professor Anna Lawrence (Inverness College, UHI)

Date and time:

30 September 2016 12pm - 1pm


Room 205 (Inverness College) and Room 619 (Goodlyburn, Perth College)


At this seminar I will present a recent paper in which I look at how foresters are changing the way they do forestry in practice, and what that means for adaptive forest governance. I’m keen to look more closely at forestry practice because much of the focus on the literature is on policy and science. And it is in practice that change happens.

Adaptation in forest management is often framed as a scientific challenge, relying on more accurate modelling and better communication from science practice. However, future scenarios of extreme uncertainty may require a more flexible and interactive approach, drawing on a wider range of knowledge. Ways forward are sometimes presented as either-or alternatives: a choice between deterministic, reductionist and top-down forest management, or ‘indeterministic’, adaptive and ecosystem approaches. Using qualitative social research, the work shows how in the UK foresters must find new spaces in which to use their silvicultural knowledge, and work flexibly, generating new knowledge and practice through observation and local experiments. The capacity of state forestry organisations to learn and adapt is constrained by resource cuts, reorganisation, poor record keeping, increasingly top down policy control, and de facto pre-eminence given to timber as the management objective. Individual relationships and personalities can nevertheless support communication and learning. The theoretical alternatives allow us to explore these changes, and to an emerging approach which is both creative and grounded in silvicultural knowledge and experience. Important parts of the adaptive process lie with practice and innovation in the forest, rather than hierarchical, science led approaches.

About the speaker

Anna Lawrence is Honorary Professor of human dimensions of forestry, at Inverness College, UHI. She was formerly head of social research at Forest Research, and before that she spent twenty years in international development and participatory research, focusing on community and social forestry.

If you would like to attend this seminar in person or via VC/Jabber please email Dr Amy Woolvin.