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Anna Lawrence

Learning at landscape scale: human dimensions of adaptive management in old countries


Keynote for the IUFRO Landscape Ecology Conference “Sustaining ecosystem services in forest landscapes”, 23-30 August 2015, Tartu, Estonia


At its simplest, adaptive management can be defined as management through deliberate experimentation, and learning is central in this approach to resilience. Adaptive management is still rooted firmly in the biological side of ecology, while the social or human dimensions tend to receive less attention. It is also fair to say that most adaptive management is conducted in the so-called “new world”, where large areas of semi natural forest, usually under public ownership, are available for planned experimentation as an integral part of resource management. The challenge remains, of how to build experimentation and learning into more fragmented landscapes under mixed public and private ownership.

One approach is to take a more bottom-up view, and explore what professionals are doing as they respond to the pressures and drivers of environmental change. These adaptations of practice take place within a cultural and institutional landscape, as well as an ecological landscape. It is relevant therefore to consider within the concept of human landscape ecology, the ways in which knowledge is developed and shared in the context of governance processes and structures.


The talk will consider new data about local experiments by foresters, who feel that scientific advice and institutional guidance is insufficient for conventional approaches to forest planning.  These experiences are used as a lens to reconsider some of the orthodoxies and experiences of adaptive management, and ask how we can help innovation and knowledge to connect within landscapes.


University of the Highlands and Islands, UK