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The role of forestry in national climate change adaptation policy: cases from Sweden, Germany, France and Italy/Le role de la foresterie dans la politique nationale d'adaptation au changement climatique: cas de la Suede, de l'Allemagne, de la France et de l'Italie/El papel de la silvicultura en las politicas nacionales de adaptacion al cambio climatico: los casos de Suecia, Alemania, Francia e Italia.


Adaptation to climate change is a complex, broad-ranging issue, which has only recently started to be developed as a part of the political strategies of various countries (cf. Gagnon-Lebrun and Agrawala 2008, Keskitalo 2010b). Adding to this complexity, adaptation is also generally regarded as needing to be taken into account with an integrated approach, including actions taken separately at different levels, as well as viewing these in relation to each other and to system requirements (such as, for instance, the particular requirements for adaptation in different regions or localities). Forestry is one of Europe's largest land-use sectors and requires adaptation to be coordinated by multiple actors, given--for instance--its potential impact on biodiversity and other interests. For adaptation to climate change in forest systems to take place, there is a need for action by forest managers, at regional and national governance levels and by forest owners and industry (cf. Seppala et al. 2009, Doelle et al. 2012; see also, e.g., Amato et al. 2011, Lindner et al. 2008, Kellomaki et al. 2005, Bolte et al. 2009, and Kolstrom et al. 2011). However, so far, adaptation has been less the focus than mitigation, and "forest-sector responses to climate change have mostly been reactive" (Seppala et al. 2009: 12). Doelle et al. note, in an assessment of the intersection of climate change and forest policy, that "[a]daptation as a policy realm remains underdeveloped ... and as a political issue, it typically lacks a public profile except following extreme events such as major forest fires, or infestations that are linked to climate change" (Doelle et al. 2012: 51). (1) Existing approaches to adaptation in forestry have also been criticised for not including the requirements of both the political process and the existing political and governance context within the national system, all of which strongly influence the definition and implementation of adaptation options at the national and local levels (Wellstead et al. 2013). Furthermore, the factors influencing adaptation in different sectors (such as forestry) have not, largely, been investigated yet (see, e.g., Seppala et al. 2009, Eastaugh et al. 2009).

It is thus highly relevant to review how, and to what extent, adaptation measures have been defined for forestry in different states, and to examine this in terms of whether they have been situated within the integral context of the state system and steering mechanisms defined for adaptation, as well as within a country's specific forestry context.

The aim of this paper, based on an exploratory framework, is to review the factors that influence integration of forestry in the development of adaptation policy and institutions in selected European countries. In particular, this paper suggests some measures that may impact the integration of adaptation policy into the forestry sector with diversified ownership. Sweden, Germany, and France are taken as examples of countries with different developments of their adaptation policies as well as different requirements of their forest systems and actors. The Italian case illustrates how adaptation actions for the forestry sector are being defined in a country where no national adaptation policy exists as of yet; in general, the results illustrate the seemingly large role of extreme events in driving adaptation policy forward in very different policy systems.


Adaptation can be generally defined as the "adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities" (Seppala et al. 2009: 9, cf. Smit and Wandel 2006, Fussel 2007). Adaptation can emerge reactively, in response to a threat, or develop autonomously among actors, e.g., in response to an event such as a pest outbreak that is expected to become more regular with climate change. However, merely reactive or autonomous adaptations by stakeholders will not gain the benefit of coordination of a large section of actors nor of being supported by pre-defined state crisis response systems that may contribute to anticipating disturbances through proactive planning. In a sector like forestry with its long growth cycle, pre-emptive planning for situations as they develop is especially crucial, in order to avoid--for instance--large-scale storm felling and loss of revenue in areas where potentially fast-growing but stormexposed forests have been planted. This could also be the case of stands originating in past reforestation projects with species that are already maladapted to present conditions (Seppala et al. 2009, Lindner et al. 2008, Kellomaki et al. 2005).

Planned adaptation, e.g. including advice and other measures to support planning for increased stand resilience, may be particularly important in minimising the risks due to climate change in the forestry sector. This will need to be developed and implemented on the level of the state, regions, management agencies, forestry companies and managers, and individual forest owners, and draw on the adaptive capacity of all of these (Keskitalo 2011). So far, however, adaptation to climate change in forest management has focused to a large extent on determining the most efficient and ecologically suitable management measures for specific forest types and areas (e.g., Amato et al. 2011, Lindner et al. 2008, Kellomaki et al. 2005). Wellstead et al. (2013) note that many of those adaptations which will be possible to implement depend on how they are framed and seen as relevant within a political and governance process.

Studies that do take into account the political context of adaptation have suggested a number of different factors that may impact adaptation to climate change. For instance, reviewing climate change adaptation in forest management, Doelle et al. conclude that "new governance arrangements tend to be much more diverse, unpredictable and plain 'messy'" (Doelle et al. 2012: 51). Here, in particular, the "fledgling nature of ... adaptation ... policy ...set the stage for a variety of modes of engagement with extant forest management regimes" (Doelle et al. 2012: 52; see also Ogden and Innes 2008).

For our study we have selected an exploratory policy assessment approach that includes a number of overarching factors (previously found as relevant with regard to the development of adaptation policy in a range of European countries, cf. Keskitalo 2010b) in order to assess the specific role of a number of factors with regards to forestry. These include: 1) the existence of policies governing adaptation in forestry; 2) the development or institutionalisation of organisational units for adaptation in forestry (mainstreamed or separate); 3) the existence of measures to build capacity to act on adaptation; and 4) the influence of contextual factors such as events, that have been targeted in a number of studies (cf. Doelle et al. 2012).

Firstly (1), the existence of policies governing adaptation and the development of organisational units for adaptation in forestry (mainstreamed or separate), may be considered the basis for national action in this area. A general typology of planned adaptation development may include both a distinction in terms of policy development and in terms of organisational steering and support (Appelstrand 2007, Keskitalo 2010a, Fussel 2007). An assessment of policy development may include whether policies exist to define priorities (if adaptation priorities have been set) and, secondly, whether binding targets for implementation (e.g., legal requirements) exist in order to develop accountability on the issue of adaptation. Secondly (2), the institutionalisation of adaptation goals also requires implementation within relevant organisations. This may take place through the development of organisational steering for adaptation, either in the form of mainstreaming where policy is mainly integrated into existing units, or in the form of development of adaptation-specific units. For all of these, it is relevant to review the specific relationship to the selected sector, here forestry. Even if adaptation policy in general may have been developed, a specific sector may be included in policy or organisation on adaptation to a lesser extent. Adaptation to climate change in forest policy may thus both depend on the historical development of the relation between state and forest industry and on what the particular state organisation on forestry is.

Thirdly, an impacting factor is the existence of measures to build capacity to act on adaptation. Apart from particular organisation of adaptation, adaptive capacity-building activities may support possibilities to adapt in larger sectors of society beyond the state level--for instance, through information, awareness-raising, or research and monitoring (see Appelstrand 2007, Keskitalo 2010a). In forestry, ownership structure may have implications on the actual implementation of adaptation policies. The development of measures to build capacity to act on adaptation may be particularly demanding, e.g., for small-scale private owners where information efforts need to reach and impact large numbers of people. The development of measures to build capacity to act on adaptation may also be influenced by the different state priorities and existing situations within which adaptation is to be developed.

Fourthly and finally, beyond these factors, it can also be noted that a number of highly contextual factors influence both whether adaptation policy is developed and whether forestry takes a more or less prominent role in a country's adaptation profile. The existence of events has been identified within formal frameworks for the establishment of an issue as a policy priority (Kingdon 1995). These may include policy events such as the release of a high-level report or extreme weather events, which serve to draw attention to a specific issue. Other issues that influence such a development may include the existence of strong driving actors, policy entrepreneurs such as politicians, or other actors that act on the issue that may also be important for whether adaptation emerges as an important issue in policy. In addition existing policy, media, and political contexts may influence whether adaptation is in fact seen as relevant in relation to extreme weather events, or to potential climate change risks or long term risks (cf. Kingdon 1995).


Case studies have been chosen to reflect countries that have different adaptation policy developments as well as different requirements of their forest systems and actors (cf. Keskitalo 2010a). The selection of different countries is not representative of forestry in the EU or more widely, but rather was made on the basis of maximum variation in order to illustrate a variety of different adaptation policy developments and forestry systems. Sweden, although a unitary state, has relatively large capacities decentralised to the local level, as well as large private forest holdings governed mainly through framework law. In Germany, decision-making is decentralised to the states (Lander), meaning that responsibilities for adaptation and in particular with regard to forestry may require the involvement of different political levels with potential complications in terms of organisation. France is relatively centralised and constitutes an opposing example, where adaptation development can potentially be directed to a greater degree from the national level. Each of these three countries has also established national adaptation policy documents, in which the existence of forest policy and levels of organisation in forestry can be researched. In Italy, a country decentralised largely on the regional level and with large regional differences, no national adaptation policy currently exists, although the process of developing a coordinated National Adaptation Strategy (NAS) has recently started (2012). This makes it a particularly interesting case with regard to how sectoral development has proceeded in the absence of formal national policy (i.e., driven by lower levels or by governance in other sectors).

Each country also has different distributions of forest ownership (see Table 1). It should be noted that in all the countries different forest management and owner categories have their own representation of forest management objectives; in particular, among the private owners, there is a large diversity of points of view. Forest structures also differ between the countries, with forests in Italy being almost entirely naturally regenerated and intensively managed only in the case of coppices, while relatively intensive management (including planting and therefore active choice of tree species as well as thinning and other actions) is common in Sweden and Germany. In France, the high value stands, at least for public forests, are good quality oak high forests, which are intensively managed but naturally regenerated. The more intensive forestry in Sweden and Germany may thus result in larger divergences from a "natural" forest, where larger changes are needed to include variation in tree species and age. However, different challenges may exist for all combinations of management. In all countries except Italy (where the manufacturing chain is very important, but mainly with imported timber), forestry also contributes significantly to national export value (particularly pronounced in Sweden).

This study draws on a review of national policies (or, in the case of Italy, the attempt to develop policy) on adaptation, in particular highlighting the place of the forestry sector in these. All studies draw on initial bibliographic and national policy reviews of adaptation policies with regard to forestry developed in the EU Expected Climate cHange and Options for European Silviculture (ECHOES) COST Action FP0703 project. Further review has been organised somewhat differently in the different countries. In Sweden, for the general development of adaptation as a national policy issue, this paper draws on a study from 2008-2009 (Keskitalo 2010c) that includes document study and interviews with leading policy actors. For forestry, it also draws on an updated review of the role of forestry in Swedish adaptation policy (Keskitalo et al. 2011). In France, studies are further based on a bibliographic review of adaptation initiatives (Cacot and Peyron 2009), and continuing French developments (detailed in Legay, Peyron and Riou-Nivert 2008). In Germany, the description of adaptation initiatives is based on documents of the Federal Government or the UBA KomPass centre (The Federal Government 2008). In Italy, the analysis took into account official documents from national and local administrations and published papers. Results sections below are structured in accordance with the four factors highlighted in the theoretical framework section.


Existence of policies governing adaptation and the place of the forestry sector in these

In Sweden, adaptation as a policy issue has mainly emerged through the creation of the Commission on Climate and Vulnerability (cf. Commission on Climate and Vulnerability 2007). This was a largely expert-based group commissioned by the government that produced a document detailing the potential impact of climate change, as well as adaptation pre-requisites and recommended adaptation actions, for different sectors and areas in Sweden (Commission on Climate and Vulnerability 2006). A number of measures were suggested. For the forestry sector, these included mainly adaptive capacity-building in terms of information and the need for research on things such as methods for spreading risk by clarifying the suitability of different tree species in different areas under climate change, and determining adaptation measures for forest management to use in education and outreach. (2) The suggestions of the Commission were then taken forward in a bill in March 2009 (Government Offices of Sweden 2009). Given the initial focus on flooding in the development of the Commission, recommendations tended to target large-scale infrastructure addressing things such as the possibility of preventing flooding around Sweden's largest lake; meanwhile, no binding measures or additional funding were suggested for forestry (Government Offices of Sweden 2009).

In Germany, the development of National Adaptation Strategy (Deutsche Anpassungs-Strategie DAS; Bundesregierung 2008) was approved and funded by the German federal government on December 17, 2008. The DAS can be seen as an integrative strategy to reduce risks and potential damage concerning climate change and, like the Swedish Commission on Climate and Vulnerability, includes a number of sectors (Bundesregierung 2008). Moreover, in the process of establishing the DAS, a comprehensive set of adaptation indicators was identified by an expert consultation. The core instrument for balancing the different and potentially conflicting goals in the DAS is the German system of areal planning encompassing a model of sustainable regional development and resource use. A central step forward in the German strategy has been the establishment of an Adaptation Action Plan in collaboration with the states (Lander) in Germany and other stakeholders (concluded on August 31, 2011; Bundesregierung 2011). Besides the governments and public authorities, adaptation is increasingly of concern to private actors. Here, the state can facilitate building on their own adaptation strategies and measures by providing research results, data, and advice.

On the basis of the federal DAS, the German "Lander" developed their own adaptation strategies and actions, taking into account their specific vulnerabilities (examples here include the state of Lower Saxony as a typical "areal" state and Berlin as a metropolitan area; Niedersachsisches Ministerium fur Umwelt, Energie und Klimaschutz 2012, Senatsverwaltung fur Stadtentwicklung und Umwelt 2012). Suggestions specifically on adaptation in forestry exist for federal level (e.g., by the federal KomPass agency, including recommendations on diversity, exotic tree species, management strategies, and fire/additional stress reduction; UBA "KomPass" 2011), as well as for state documents.

In France, a federating research programme named "Management and Impacts of Climate Change" (GICC--Gestion et Impacts du Changement Climatique) was launched in 1999 by the Ministry in charge of Ecology, and the French Observatory of Climate Change Effects (ONERC) was created in 2001 to collect and disseminate information, studies, and research on risks associated with climate change and extreme weather events, and to make recommendations on potential measures for prevention and adaptation in order to limit the risks associated with climate change. A national strategy for adaptation to climate change was prepared and published in 2007 by the ONERC. It considers several sectors, with forestry being taken into account only as a land-use issue with very general recommendations. Specifically concerning the forestry sector, the administration requested two reports in 2007 from senior forestry experts (Burgau et al. 2007). The Roman-Amat report submitted 32 proposals concerning research and development coordination, risk management, forest policies, and biodiversity preservation. In addition, documents were produced by working groups linked to the French administration on specific issues, like the extension of the risk of forest fires related to climate change (Chatry et al. 2010), or adaptation from the angle of forest genetic resources (Commission on Forest Genetic). In July 2011, after a process of public consultation, a national plan for adaptation to climate change was launched by the Ministry of Ecology in all activity sectors (French Ministry of Ecology 2011). Five actions under the leadership of the Ministry of Agriculture are planned for forestry: research and capacity building, monitoring and data diffusion, stand and sector-level adaptation, genetic and ecosystem biodiversity, and management of extreme weather events.

In all of these countries, national-level documents thus mainly outline best practices; in contrast to some issues--e.g., regarding flood risk, a specific, localised risk may be managed through infrastructure-oriented measures--they do not set binding targets for the forestry sector and have also not had major funded measures identified.

Italy is, by comparison, one of the few European countries that does not, so far, have a formal National Adaptation Strategy or policy. Attempts to develop such a strategy started with the National Conference on Climate Change organised in 2007 by the Ministry for the Environment, Land, and Sea (MATTM 2007), which proposed a climate manifesto for sustainable adaptation and environmental safety and called for the preparation of national, regional, and local adaptation strategies (Westerhoff 2010). A document on Biodiversity and Climate Change (MATTM 2006) drawn up in preparation for the National Biodiversity Strategy (NBS) specifically mentioned silviculture and forest management as important adaptation instruments and defined six main criteria for an adaptation strategy regarding biodiversity conservation and forests, including research, monitoring, protection, and reassessment of forest management policies. Although these were not included in the final NBS (MATT 2010), it nevertheless stated the need to define adequate adaptation and mitigation measures and to increase the resilience of natural and seminatural ecosystems. Such general aims were also expressed by a document contributing to the National Strategic Plan 2007-2013 prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Policies, which indicated that forests could play an important role in the strategy for adaptation to climate change, which highlighted the effects of increased hydro-geological risk following the intensification of extreme meteorological events and the need to combat desertification. In addition, a set of general national guidelines on forestry that include adaptation have been set out by the Ministry of Agriculture (Baseline MIPAAF, GU n.74 30.03.2010, "Criteri minimi concernenti le buone pratiche forestali"--Codes of best practices).

At the beginning of 2012, the Ministry for the Environment, Land, and Sea made the first step towards a formal National Adaptation Strategy (NAS), starting with information exchange with the scientific community and involving stakeholders in climate change impact assessment, vulnerability, and adaptation. At the end of 2012, a formal statement with guidelines and priorities for the NAS was drawn up and was published on-line on the website of the Ministry for the Environment, Land, and Sea for a public consultation. The forestry sector was taken into account in the following priorities: integration of watershed protection in forest fire prevention policies; better management of public forests, considered as primary green infrastructures, with a specific focus on coppice conversion to high forest; use of forest biomass for energy without reducing carbon stocking capacity; conversion of conifer plantations into autochthonous broadleaves; thinning for protection against forest fire; biodiversity conservation; and increased resilience of forests against climate change impact. It is to be noted that most of these priorities are in line with the "best practices code" and the general approach to forest management in Italy.

Since adaptation to climate change in forestry is also here mostly based on "best practices", the difference between Italy and the other case study areas is not as large as the absence of formal adaptation policy would indicate.

Establishment of organisation on adaptation to climate change in forestry

In the Swedish Commission and Bill, the forestry sector was incorporated as one of several sectors governed through the authority structure for developing adaptation established following the Bill. The county administrative boards (the regional level) gained regional responsibility for coordination (Government Offices of Sweden 2009), while a number of sectoral agencies gained overall responsibility for their own sector. Consequently, the Swedish Forest Agency (SFA) was established as the responsible sector agency for adaptation in forestry and was charged with including climate change issues in their training and communication--among other things--with individual forest owners. To support this, the SFA was to review the Forestry Act and its own advice with respect to climate change as well as in consultation with research on developing systems

to monitor the impact of climate change on forestry. The Swedish Forest Agency has so far started revising its policy in accordance with the requirements above, developing among other things a climate policy (SFA 2009) that largely reiterates its national requirements and conclusions of the Commission, and changed its recommendations for plant selection in relation to future climate (SFA 2010) as well as for forest roads (SFA 2011).

In Germany, the federal level has recently established the UBA KomPass competence centre on climate impact and adaptation. KomPass, a sub-unit of the Federal Environment Agency (UBA), is the German agency to further develop the government's national adaptation strategy. KomPass works together with science, confederations, other government agencies, and private enterprises to compile knowledge and information, and to prepare documents in the process of the adaptation strategy (e.g. Progress Report on Adaptation in 2015). Furthermore, KomPass also provides information on climate change, databanks, and best-practice examples for stakeholders, e.g., a climate pilot for municipalities.

A general climate change-oriented federal research programme, KLIMZUG, was launched in 2008. KLIMZUG will, amongst other things, support the development of regional approaches to climate change. With regard to forestry, a set of indicators was recently established to monitor adaptation on a national scale (UBA KomPass 2011). An additional measure in the Action Plan is the establishment of an inter-ministerial Working Group on Adaptation in the German federal government. On the state level, climate agencies mandated to support climate protection goals and enhance energy efficiency are currently being launched and climate protection laws are being prepared.

However, with regard to forestry, most of the work and the decisions are to be taken on the district/regional and communal level. In the action plans of the federal states, primarily sectoral action fields are outlined. E.g., in Lower Saxony, forestry is one of 14 action fields, along with energy, biodiversity, and coast protection. The major goal of the adaptation plan in the forestry sector is the maintenance of all forest functions through an active development of mixed forests. Here, tree species that are more tolerant of drought stress are increasingly considered in regeneration activities. Concrete adaptation measures concerning forestry are implemented with respect to the vulnerability of the respective ecoregions. Additional recommended measures include the intensification of forest research, monitoring, and consultancy as a precondition for adaptive management, the latter especially for the many private forest owners (Niedersachsisches Ministerium fur Umwelt, Energie und Klimaschutz 2012, Senatsverwaltung fur Stadtentwicklung und Umwelt 2012).

In France, the general organisation with regard to adaptation and mitigation support is the ONERC (French Observatory of Climate Change Effects). On the forestry side, ECOFOR, a pre-existing public platform for coordination of research on forest ecosystems, was charged by the Ministry of Agriculture with coordinating research on climate change adaptation in accordance with proposals in a 2007 report. As a partner of the GICC research programme, ECOFOR has efficiently disseminated knowledge about potential climate change impact throughout the forest management sector since 2005. Following another 2007 report recommendation, a technical network for climate change adaptation in forestry (AFORCE) was launched in 2008. It links research and development institutions, is jointly run by researchers and developers of public and private forest institutions; several of these partners have already produced technical documents about adaptation, providing general recommendations (Piermont 2007, Legay and Mortier 2006, Riou-Nivert 2008). For example, an increase in the thinning of forest stands has been recommended and implemented by the French Forest Service (ONF), which is in charge of public forest management. All these bodies and partners are involved in the implementation of the National Plan for Adaptation's five actions concerning forestry.

Commonalities in Sweden, Germany, and France thus include the establishment of a structure for working on the general aims in policy with regard to adaptation in forestry through mainstreaming, i.e., through attributing responsibility to already existing national forest management agencies. In Germany, although federal responsibility for adaptation lies with the general bodies established as above, the fundamental responsibility for implementing adaptation in the forestry sector lies with the district and municipal levels of forest management.

Given this kind of multi-level character and largely nascent phase of development, the differences in progress between Italy and the other countries are not striking, despite Italy's lack of a formal adaptation policy. The structure of regional federalism in Italy allows Regional and other local administrations sufficient autonomy to move on both mitigation and adaptation. Nevertheless, in the Rural development plans for 2007-2013 set out by the Regional administrations, forest measures concerning adaptation were rarely considered; one case was the Veneto Region which has proactively taken measures concerning climate change mitigation and adaptation among its non-productive forest investments. The Autonomous Province of Trento has also published reports that examine climate change impact on forests; in one of these reports, the "flexible" silvicultural systems currently applied in the province are pointed out as relevant to adaptation (Progetto Clima, Provincia Autonoma di Trento 2008, Provincia Autonoma di Trento 2007). More recently (2012), the Lombardy Region has drawn up guidelines for a Regional adaptation strategy that highlights the forestry sector as vulnerable, specifically concerning biodiversity loss and habitat degradation.

Measures to build capacity to act on adaptation

Given the largely nascent focus on adaptation in forestry detailed above, measures for building capacity are highlighted by all of the countries, and all countries include general recommendations on monitoring, research and involvement (cf. Keskitalo 2011). Beyond these, in Sweden, the Swedish Commission on Climate and Vulnerability notes a number of actions that may be taken, e.g., by companies and would to a large extent need to be included in forest management by small-scale private owners (who taken together own about half of the Swedish forest, and are often organised into forest owners' associations), supported by information from the SFA (which provided 10 million SEK over three years for such an information campaign). While measures recommended in the Commission report--including shifting from a focus on maximum production to risk minimisation or resilience as a goal for forest management--were positively received and also discussed as having been started on test areas at a meeting including major stakeholders in forestry (prior to the release of the Bill), it is not clear to what extent such measures are yet being institutionalised on a broader front by forest companies or forest owners' associations (Keskitalo et al. 2011).

In Germany, the DAS aims to raise awareness for actors, and lays the groundwork for sound adaptation decisions by administrators and private enterprises. The implementation of the strategy encompasses several approaches, e.g., best practices, forums, online questioning, and stakeholder dialogues, as well as diverse publications (Bundesregierung 2008). The federal Adaptation Action Plan aims to create a suitable framework for developing and strengthening adaptive capacity and ensuring that adaptation becomes an integral part of planning and decision processes. The following initiatives are scheduled: awareness raising and information, dialogue and participation with various social actors, improvement of knowledge base concerning climate change impact, vulnerabilities and climate forecasts (Bundesregierung 2011). In order to improve the knowledge base of the people involved in such an adaptation strategy and to determine particular adaptations, key research areas targeted include developing strategies and technical solutions for adaptation measures (e.g., regional approaches in the federal climate coordinating KLIMZUG programme) (Bundesregierung 2011). Moreover, on state and local level, several educational measures have been implemented to strengthen capacity building in climate change adaptation. In schools, during professional training and in out-of-school educational institutions, aspects of climate change adaptation are increasingly incorporated into the curricula.

In France, the national plan for adaptation launched by the French Ministry of Ecology in 2011 proposed largely adaptive capacity building measures, including for the forestry sector to intensify research and development efforts, collect and diffuse ecological data widely and ensure impact monitoring (French Ministry of Ecology 2011). Building capacities and developing practical tools are the leading purpose of the AFORCE technical network. Site assessment and vulnerability assessment are the main and most widely supported development axis for adaptation shared by the partners of the AFORCE network. The need for a re-analysis of species tests and arboreta is also largely recognised by these actors, and several actions were undertaken to that purpose. However, all these plans and projects are based on networking with no additional funding.

In Italy, progress among some partners--although just recently started as part of broader adaptation policies--is also developing along similar lines as in other countries with regard to adaptive capacity building. According to the National Biodiversity Strategy (MATTM 2010), the involvement of local community stakeholders is crucial for developing more adequate adaptation actions; building and strengthening cooperation by public and private sectors will be a fundamental phase in the development process of these actions, together with the development of a wider awareness of the importance that natural systems' adaptation has for individuals and society. During the eighth National Rural Network meeting in 2010, a Workshop on "Forestry associations and rural development: Opportunities and responsibilities for the implementation of forestry measures in Rural Development Plans" concluded that it is necessary to rapidly start monitoring activities, prevention and research, and to support firms, enterprises, and forest owners so as to increase Mediterranean forests' adaptive capacity to cope with extreme weather events, reduced water supply and to changes in production (Rete Rurale Nazionale 2007-2013). The recently started process of developing a National Adaptation Strategy, as already mentioned above (par. 4.1), has underlined the importance of stakeholder participation and initiated public consultation on the subject of climate change impact and adaptation.

Influences on adaptation issue development in forestry: Contextual factors, in particular extreme events and broader policy context

The Commission on Climate and Vulnerability in Sweden notes that a major impact on adaptation emerging as an issue in the forestry sector were the storms Gudrun and Per in 2005 and 2007, respectively. For instance, Gudrun resulted in some 11-12 billion SEK of costs to the forestry sector, and the storms caused ongoing costs due to root rot and pest damage (e.g., pine bark beetle). Thus, while a focus may earlier have been placed on the positive impacts of climate change on forestry (increased growth due to warmer and longer vegetation season, potentially shortening the rotation period), potential negative impacts such as pests and invasive species as well as increased occurrence of extreme events (as well as increased risks for storm felling given increasing growth rate and potentially wetter soils in winter) came to be highlighted (3) (Swedish Commission on Climate and Vulnerability 2007). However, in general, it can be seen that the Commission developed to some extent as a result of the flood risk concerns downstream of Sweden's largest lake following a large flood in 2000-2001, after which the county wrote to the government demanding action on such risks. As a result, the Commission on Climate and Vulnerability prior to its 2007 report also presented an interim report on adaptation to flooding in the large lakes (Commission on Climate and Vulnerability 2006). As a result, forestry was not the driving issue in developing the report, which may be seen as reflected in the overall focus on funding for flood risk-related measures in the Bill (Government Offices of Sweden 2009).

In Germany, the adaptation strategy at the federal level (the DAS) is embedded in the overall sustainability strategy of the federal government. The motivation for the German National Adaptation Strategy was mainly related to developing climate change objectives as a whole. It took its impetus from, among other things, the framework convention on climate change in 1992 where the need for adaptation was already mentioned, and the Stern report and the UNFCCC conference in Bali in 2007 where adaptation was established as one of the four pillars in the action plan to combat climate change. The development of adaptation policies was therefore mainly driven by general concerns of the German environmental community rather than by foresters. Nevertheless, several extreme events and their impact on forests may also have contributed--e.g., Hurricanes Lothar in 1999 and Kyrill in 2007 as well as severe drought stress events in 2003 and 2007. However, one of the events that may have had the largest impact--and does not relate to forestry in particular--is the flooding of the Elbe in 2002, which has, among other things, been discussed as an imperative for development of the EU Floods Directive (Vulturius 2013).

In France, the trigger event for the mobilisation of the forest management community around adaptation issues was the release of the CARBOFOR project's results in 2004. Funded by the GICC programme, CARBOFOR (Carbon sequestration in forest ecosystems: Quantification, spatial distribution, vulnerability, and impacts of climate change) produced the first simulations of climate change impact on forestry on a national scale (Loustau and al. 2010). Efficiently disseminated in 2005 in the forest community by ECOFOR, these results raised great concerns about climate change impact. Weather events enhanced this movement. The 2003 drought and heatwave caused a lot of damage in forest stands, with massive mortalities affecting Scots pine, chestnut, spruce, and fir in the South, and decline or biotic attacks elsewhere. More generally speaking, the last thirty years in France have shown a remarkable series of extreme climate events, especially droughts and windstorms; Lothar and Martin caused 8% of the forest standing stock in 1999 to be wind thrown. In 2009, the Klaus storm toppled 37 million m3 in the planted Aquitaine pine forest. Followed by a massive bark beetle attack, this event resulted in a deep crisis of the regional forest and wood chain. (4) Since 2005, more and more forestry meetings have been devoted to climate change impact and adaptation, and several publications were produced either to propose adaptation outlines (Legay & Mortier 2006, Piermont 2007) or to list questions addressed by forest managers to researchers (Riou-Nivert 2008). However, in the public consultation on environmental issues coordinated by the Ministry of Environment in 2007 (Fr. Grenelle de l'environnement), the forestry-based sector was considered mainly in a mitigation perspective. While forest impact and needs for adaptation may have been illustrated by a number of events and policy development, the predominant focus on mitigation may also have limited the room for adaptation, not only in France but elsewhere (e.g., Sweden; Keskitalo 2010c).

In Italy, as in all other Mediterranean countries, fire is expected to be one of the major disturbances that will increase in future climate scenarios, strongly interacting with a growing risk of soil erosion and watershed instability (Lindner et al. 2010). While recent years have seen a drop in the number of--and total area affected by--forest fires in the country, their effects have worsened in consequence of the changing environmental and social conditions. In Italy, up until recently, a generally limited connection has been made between the current risk of, e.g., fire and the potential increased risks due to climate change. As in many other countries, the main goal in climate policy for the forestry sector in Italy up to now has been focused on mitigation (implementation of Kyoto protocols, biomass for bioenergy from agriculture and forestry, etc.; Westerhoff 2010). These limitations notwithstanding, the forestry research community and, to some extent, different agencies have recognised adaptation as a priority. This development cannot be de-linked from the fact that the tendency towards greater diversity, both in species composition and stand structure (increasing the resilience and adaptive capacity of forest stands) is also highlighted more broadly by Italian forest management in relation to ecosystem and systemic management approaches (Barbati et al. 2010, Ciancio and Nocentini 2011, Keskitalo et al. 2013). Since the early 1970s, in fact, management of public-owned forests, but also a share of private owners, has shifted from the traditional production-driven goal (timber and fuelwood) to less intensive practices due both to lowered profitability in forestry and to the emerging environmental role of forests.


This study indicated that policy development on adaptation in the forestry sector in Sweden, Germany, and France has been included as part of the general development of adaptation policies (strategies or other more general documents) at the national level, whereas in Italy, it has up to the present been mentioned mainly in documents targeting other policy areas or other aspects of forestry policies (e.g., "best practices codes"). Adaptation aims have developed in the different countries, to some extent, within similar time periods--in part reflecting broader issue development and the role of transnational rather than merely national (or state) policy and issue formation (cf. Keskitalo 2010b, McCarthy 2001). These developments are summarised in Table 2 in relation to the parameters highlighted in the theoretical framework. While it is not possible to determine a relative role of these factors in relation to each other, given both their contextual and exploratory nature and the developing nature of the adaptation field, this study underscored the importance of this variety of factors as well as that of the role of extreme events and the broader context in developing adaptation policy.

The selection of our case studies was based on maximum variation in development of adaptation policy and variation between forestry systems. These findings, in particular the role of extreme events in the development of planned adaptation, could be assumed to be of wider importance. It also indicates that the different structure of both national steering and the forestry sector will continue to produce differences with regard to how the different countries approach adaptation. Our study adds to more general reviews (e.g. Eastaugh et al. 2009, Keskitalo 2011), but thereby also notes the risk that adaptation policy may continue to be reactively driven (cf. Seppala et al. 2009, Doelle et al. 2012).

In general, this study indicated that in all the examined countries forestry, so far, is seen as a smaller part of a general national policy and the organisational development of adaptation, in which there are currently no set binding targets (cf. Kern and Alber 2008). Instead, implementation largely depends on continued mainstreaming in relevant agencies and among forest managers and management units, as well as future development at regional and local levels to define national aims. This study also evidenced the role of other sectors than forestry as driving forces in the development of national adaptation aims. For instance, in Sweden national adaptation policy development was connected to concerns over flood risk at regional and municipal levels - especially in relation to the risk of flooding of the large lakes. In France and Germany on the other hand, adaptation policy development related to a large extent to international commitments and climate science. In Italy, at the national level, forest vulnerability to climate change and the importance of adaptation has been taken into account within the context of nature conservation policies and based on consultation with the scientific experts (see also Cullotta and Maetzke 2009).

The development of adaptation was thus driven mainly by other concerns than those specific to forestry, even if the importance of adaptation in this sector was raised by the occurrence of extreme events and, in some cases like France, also early policy development on forestry. Nevertheless, as both the linkage of extreme events to climate change and the development of adaptation policy in general have been relatively recent, the existence of binding measures or regulations on forestry adaptation is limited in the examined cases. So far, national adaptation support or adaptive capacity building measures have targeted the development of guidelines and informational means (such as, in Sweden, the information campaign by the Swedish Forest Agency, which has also been given sectoral responsibility for adaptation). As a result, given that the development of a formal national strategy on adaptation is just starting in Italy, and the limited steering mechanisms so far implemented on adaptation in forestry in the other three countries, differences in implementing adaptation actions at the local level between these countries may not be as large as the existence (or non-existence) of national policy would indicate. Some of these results may thus indicate that adaptation can proceed despite lack of formal adaptation policy. As the role of policy has so far been largely informal and target-setting, it can be argued that elements within the Italian forestry society have acted to compensate for this, for instance in policies related to nature conservation. Stronger development would most presumably require a legislative basis (cf. Kern and Alber 2008, Borras and Edquist 2013).

The different structure of both central steering and of the forestry sector in particular in the different countries may in the future result in differences in how approaches to adaptation are developed (Keskitalo 2010a). Since there are as of yet no binding targets for the forestry sector in any of these cases, any development may strongly depend on the policies in the different German states in the German case, and on the reaction of the different manager categories (supported by adaptive capacity-building, e.g., information efforts, by the state) in the Swedish and French cases. For instance, in Sweden it is acknowledged that adaptation will largely depend on decisions made by the many small-scale forest owners, potentially supported by information campaigns (Commission on Climate and Vulnerability 2007). This may limit the possibility of developing adaptation, and may force the sector to rely primarily on voluntary rather than regulatory development of adaptation (potentially using economic grants to support forest owners integrating adaptation into their management practices).

Beyond these kinds of concerns, national institutional characteristics either within or outside the forestry sector may also influence future development on adaptation. The character of decentralised decision-making down to the municipal level, with regard to local planning may, for instance, be one of the factors that has limited the extent to which the national level takes responsibility for adaptation (Keskitalo 2010c). In similar ways, the Forest Act as a framework law in Sweden may also support the development of informal rather than formal regulation within the sector itself-a fact that, together with the recent development of adaptation measures, may move further towards explaining the current lack of binding targets. In Italy, the absence of large-scale dramatic events specifically targeting forests (such as the devastating storms in central and northern countries), the limited economic role of the forestry sector, and the relatively limited forest management activities, may contribute to the small part for forestry within the so far relatively marginalised policy area of adaptation. It is to be expected that the general perception of the need for adaptation strategies in the forestry sector in Italy may depend more on the environmental role of forests than on their productive role, and that adaptation will thus in the future be included in other contexts than in countries where income from forestry plays a larger role. In Sweden, Germany, and France, adaptation may--to an increasing extent--depend on the economic benefits assessed by forest owners for including adaptation in their management regimes. For successful adaptation the different types of forest owners would need, to a greater extent, to become involved in developing adaptation.


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[1] Forests in Rural Studies Unit, Department of Forest Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SE-901 83 Umea, Sweden, and Department of Geography and Economic History, Umea University, SE-901 87 Umea, Sweden

[2] French forestry commission (ONF), Research Department, France. Email:

[3] Department of Biosciences and Territory, University of Molise, Italy

[4] Department of Agricultural Food and Forestry Systems, University of Florence, Italy

[5] Applied Silviculture, Faculty of Forest and Environment, Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development (HNEE), Germany


(1) This is despite, amongst other things, the existence of general aims at the European level, e.g. including the Green Paper on Forest Protection and Information in the EU: Preparing forests for climate change (EC 2010).

(2) Among the suggestions were adaptations such as planting to avoid hard edges of stands to protect the storm-sensitive spruce, shortening rotation periods, early thinning, and using traps for the spruce bark beetle. Management was also encouraged to consider the increasing risks from pests, to include preventive measures for forest fires, and to expect increased costs for maintenance of forest roads. Additional suggestions included increasing the use of pine and mixed stands in order to limit drought risk. Increased variation in thinning and felling regimes, as well as in some areas continuity forestry, were discussed, in general, to avoid the increasing risks associated with "traditional forestry targeted at maximum production" (Commission on Climate and Vulnerability 2007).

(3) In the northern areas of the country, re-freezing in spring and heavy wet snow may also include potential negative impacts on growth, while potentially wetter soils in winter may impede logging.

(4) In the 1980s, the consequences of the 1976 drought already played a major role in the emerging consciousness of the long-term effects of anthropogenic activities on ecosystems functioning and their complexity, by stimulating research on the observed declines in spruce. These studies indicated the first evidence of productivity increase in Europe (Becker 1987).
TABLE 1 Forest characteristics

Characteristics\    Proportion of     Forest area      Proportion of
Country             forested          (1000000 ha)     private--
                    land/country's                     community
                    area                               owned--state-
                                                       owned forests

Sweden              69%               28.2             76%-0%-24%
Germany             31%               11.1             47%-33%-20%
France              29%               16.0             74%-16%-10%
Italy               31%               9.1              66%-26%-8%*

Source: FRA 2010,

TABLE 2 Development of planned adaptation for forestry in the
different countries

Issue           Existence of policies       Organisational units
development\    governing adaptation        for adaptation in
Country         in forestry                 forestry (main-
                                            streamed or separate)

Sweden          Commission and Bill         Mainstreaming in
                including relevance to      Swedish Forest Agency
                adaptation in forestry

Germany         Part in National            Designated units in
                Adaptation Strategy         UBA (KOMPASS) on
                (on federal level), incl.   federal level; regional
                indicators; increasingly    climate agencies
                part of state strategies

France          Part in National            Designated units in
                Adaptation                  ECOFOR; coordination
                Plan and Strategy           of research; AFORCE
                                            network, research and
                                            development coalition

Italy           Process towards adoption    Not developed--
                of formal national          Regional approach and
                adaptation strategy         authorities
                just at the beginning
                (guidelines on adaptation
                and biodiversity from
                Ministry of Environment)

Issue           Measures to build          Influence of
development\    capacity to act            contextual
Country         on adaptation              factors

Sweden          E.g., Swedish Forest       Gudrun and Per storms
                Agency Information         2005, 2007, flood risk
                campaign                   policy attention

Germany         Stakeholder dialogues;     Hurricanes Lothar 1999,
                seminars/further           and Kyrill 2007; severe
                education (KLIMZUG         drought stress events in
                initiative); part of       2003 and 2007, flood
                study programmes and       2002
                education curricula
France          AFORCE workshops           2003 drought, storm and
                and website                wind events, policy
                                           development in forestry

Italy           Only general guidelines    Extreme events not
                at the national level,     generally connected to
                few cases at the           climate change, influence
                regional level             of numerous institutional
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Article Details
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Author:Keskitalo, E.C.H.; Legay, M.; Marchetti, M.; Nocentini, S.; Spathelf, P.
Publication:International Forestry Review
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4E
Date:Mar 1, 2015
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