The usefulness of Decision Support Systems in participatory forest planning: a comparison between Finland and Italy

I. De Meo, F. Ferretti, T. Hujala, A. Kangas


Aim of study: Participation of stakeholders is considered an essential element in producing, at different spatial and temporal scales, forest plans accepted by local community and fulfilling the requirements of Sustainable Forest Management. Increasingly, computer-based decision support systems (DSS) and tools are being introduced to assist stakeholders and decision-makers in coping with the complexities inherent in participatory forest planning. The study aimed to investigate how useful the users and researchers see DSS tools and which opportunities they perceive DSS might carry for enhancing participatory forest planning in their field of activity.

Area of study: 15 Italian and Finnish researchers and practitioners were interviewed.

Material and Methods:  Face-to-face structured interviews were used to collect opinions and experiences. Quantitative and qualitative information were analyzed to investigate differences between Italian and Finnish respondents as well as between researchers and practitioners

Main results: Results showed that in Italy there has been more focus on forest-level and medium-term problems and the intelligence phase, while in Finland there has been more attention to region-level and long-term problems and equally intelligence, design, and choice phases of decision-making. Deviations probably reflect different planning contexts and culture, variability in experiences and expertise in DSS and in availability of suitable DSS.

Research highlights: The study suggests to pay attention to evaluating the success criteria of participatory planning when preparing for the use of DSS and related tools in practical forest planning processes. Experience sharing is a key to reaching more successful use of DSS.

Keywords: computer-based decision support; participatory processes; spatial scale; success criteria; temporal scale; users' perception.

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DOI: 10.5424/fs/2013222-02953