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Environmental Science & Policy
Vol. 52, 20
15, Pages: 51–60

Private forest owners facing climate change in Wallonia: Adaptive capacity and practices

Valentine van Gameren, Edwin Zaccai

Institute for Environmental Management and Land-use Planning, Center of Studies on Sustainable Development, Université Libre de Bruxelles, 50 Avenue FD Roosevelt B (cp 130/03), 1050 Bruxelles, Belgium.


To understand and guide present and future adaptation to climate change, in-depth field studies are required in many sectors. The forestry sector, with its long time laps between decisions to plant and harvesting stands, is among the most relevant to investigate in this respect. This contribution analyzes the results of a survey conducted in Wallonia (Belgium) among private forest owners (PFO) and an array of organizations, both public and private, that influence these owners’ actions. The objective of our research is to investigate already implemented or envisaged practices of climate change adaptation as well as the adaptive capacity of these PFOs. In this respect, adaptive capacity is defined as “the ability of systems, institutions, humans and other organisms to adjust to potential damage, to take advantage of opportunities, or to respond to consequences (of climate change)” ( IPCC, 2014, p. 2).

The results show that different ways of (not) integrating climate change in forest management are visible in the sample of PFOs that can be divided into different profiles of (non) adapters. Analyzing these profiles reveals the influence of multiple objective and sociocognitive factors contributing to the PFOs adaptive capacity. The way climate change adaptation is conceived and implemented by other forest and timber actors has also repercussions on adaptive capacity as some adaptive measures are promoted and facilitated while others are hindered. These results bring fruitful aspects for understanding concrete adaptive processes and are relevant for decision-making as they point out some strengths or weaknesses in terms of adaptive capacity.

Keywords: Climate change; Adaptive capacity; Adaptive practice; Forest management; Wallonia.

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