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Perceptions of Small Private Forest Owner’s Vulnerability and Adaptive Capacity to Environmental Disturbances and Climate Change: Views from a Heterogeneous Population in Southern Quebec, Canada

Bissonnette, Jean-François, Dupras, Jérôme, Doyon, Frédérik, Chion, Clément, Tardif, Jonathan
Small-scale forestry 2017 v.16 no.3 pp. 367-393
attitudes and opinions, climate change, forest ecosystems, forest management, forest ownership, forests, funding, interviews, private forestry, silvicultural practices, Quebec
A study on the perception of vulnerability and adaptive capacity to climate change (CC) was realised among 27 small private forest owners (SPFOs) of a region in southern Quebec. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with SPFOs of diverse profiles to better understand their perception of environmental disturbances and their needs to improve forest management in relation to global change and more precisely to CC. The main purpose of the research was to better understand whether perceptions of vulnerability and adaptive capacity to CC can constitute a barrier to proactive actions toward adaptation. Qualitative data shows a spectrum of attitudes and perceptions which highlight how SPFOs identify different potential and actual disturbances and assess the risk they represent for their forest-based activities. It shows how place-based experiences of environmental disturbances shape perceptions of vulnerability and capacity to adapt to disturbances. Factors such as access to financial resources and perceived resilience of forest ecosystem influence perceived adaptive capacity. Most SPFOs who participated in the research do not perceive their forest or forest-based activities to be vulnerable to CC, which may constitute a barrier to proactive adaptation to CC. The awareness of CC as a general phenomenon does necessarily translate into adaptation in forestry practices. Yet, many participants expressed a need for better access to knowledge and financial support to improve adaptive capacities to CC and broader environmental or economic stressors.