Managing forests in a changing world: the need for a systemic approach. A review

Susanna Nocentini, Gérard Buttoud, Orazio Ciancio, Piermaria Corona


Aim of study: The paper is a scientific commented discussion with the aim of defining a framework which allows both a comprehensive vision of forest dynamics, as well as an adaptive management approach and policy procedures more suited to a changing and inherently unpredictable world.

Main results: We identify the main challenges facing forestry in relation to recent developments in forestry thinking, i.e. the paradox of aiming at sustainability in a changing environment, a shifting perception of the relationship between ecological and social systems, the recognition of forest ecosystems as complex adaptive systems, the need for integrating the social and ecological dimensions of forestry into a single framework, and the growing awareness of the importance of the ethical approach to the forest. We propose the concept of “systemic forestry” as a paradigm for better understanding forest dynamics and for guiding management and public actions at various levels. We compare the systemic approach with different silvicultural and forest management approaches which have been proposed in the last decades.

Research highlights: Our analysis shows that a systemic approach to forestry has five main consequences: 1. forestry is viewed as a part of landscape dynamics through a multi-sectoral coordination, 2. the logic of action changes from norm to process, 3. conservation is a dynamic search for resilience, 4. multi-functionality is achieved through a multi-entries approach integrating ecological, social and economic components of sustainability, 5. forestry institutions are reframed to address the issue of changing interactions among actors, 6. a change in the ethical approach to the forest is needed.


adaptive forest management; systemic silviculture; social-ecological systems; forest governance; landscape approach

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DOI: 10.5424/fs/2017261-09443