Sansilvestri, R., Cuccarollo, M., Frascaria-Lacoste, N., Benito-Garzon, M., & Fernandez-Manjarres, J. (2020). Evaluating climate change adaptation pathways through capital assessment: five case studies of forest social-ecological systems in France. Sustainability Science15(2), 539-553.


Forest social-ecological systems (FSESs) can play a major role in both the mitigation of climate change, as well as the adaptation of local communities to it. In Europe, however, forests are highly fragmented and located close to human populations. This means that maintaining forest sustainability implies not only increasing ecosystem adaptation but also developing social adaptation. Hence, there is a need to understand the current priorities and management goals of forestry stakeholders, as well as their capacity to achieve functional and sustainable FSES in the future. The present study uses an interdisciplinary approach to evaluate stakeholders’ capacity to deal with climate change and top-down policies in different FSESs. We selected five FSESs in France that exhibit a range of climatic threats and socio-economic characteristics to estimate their adaptive capacity and transformative potential. The estimation is based on an assessment of different types of capital (i.e. natural, social, resources, governance) that involves evaluating 70 indicators through more than 70 semi-structured interviews with local stakeholders. Our results highlight that forest management in France, and more broadly in Europe, is mainly based on technical approaches, which build stakeholders’ confidence in their capacity to maintain the status quo. We observe asymmetry in capital distribution in some FSES, mainly through the maximization of the resources capital, which can constraint FSESs in a robustness trap. To develop adaptive capacity for small perturbations as well as transformability, forestry stakeholders should be encouraged to compromises. More balanced capital distribution, with decreased economic benefits, along with new technical approaches and changes to the landscape composition could be necessary to ensure the long-term adaptability of FSES to climate change.

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