Is the private forest sector adapting to climate change? A study of forest managers in north Wales.
Context: Two-thirds of Britain's forest area is privately owned. Thus, understanding private forest owners and managers, and their attitudes to uncertainty and change, is essential for the success of climate change adaptation policies. Aim: The aims of this study are to (1) assess how beliefs in climate change in the private sector have influenced forest management practices; (2) identify constraints related to changes in species choice and silvicultural systems; (3) analyse the implications for implementing climate change policy in forestry. Method: Semi-structured interviews with key informants who provide advice to, or manage woodlands in, the private forest sector in north Wales. Results: Woodland managers and some advisers are not generally convinced of a need to adapt. They feel the future is uncertain, more usually in relation to tree disease than to climate change itself. Species choice is the principle focus of adaptation activities and reveals a deep divide in opinion. Commercial advisors look to new exotics but are inhibited by absence of markets, while small-scale owners rely more on native genetic diversity. Conclusions: Findings that are likely to apply widely include: the influential role of forest agents in forest management decisions including species choice; lack of confidence in climate change predictions, and in markets; more immediate concerns about tree pests and diseases; demand for leadership from the public sector, and for engagement amongst the private sector. Further research is needed across a wider area to test the variability in relationship between attitudes and behaviours, and local conditions including climate change predictions.