Garcia A. C., Savilaakso S., Verburg R. W., Gutierrez V., Wilson S. J., Krug C. B., Sassen M., Robinson B. E., Moersberger H., Naimi B., Rhemttula J. M., Dessard H., Gond V., Vermeulen C., Trolliet F., Oszwald J., Quétier F., Pietsch S. A., Bastin J. F., Dray A., Araùjp M. B., Ghazoul J., Waeber P. O.

[2020] The Global Forest Transition as a Human Affair. One Earth 2 – May 22, 417-428

Forests across the world stand at the crossroad with climate and land use changes shaping their future. Despite the demonstration of political will and global efforts, forest loss, fragmentation and land degradation continue unabated. No clear evidence exists that these initiatives are working. Why are policies designed to halt deforestation and increase restoration of forest landscapes failing? A key reason for this apparent ineffectiveness lies in the failure to recognize the agency of the stakeholders involved and the adaptive capacities of the systems we seek to steer. Landscapes do not happen. We make them. They are the result of the sum of individual actions and decisions made by all stakeholders, and the interactions between these and biophysical processes. Likewise, forest transitions are not ecological, but social and behavioral. They are a product of the way humans manage ecosystems. Decision-makers need to integrate better representations of people’s agency in their mental models. We suggest possible solution pathways to overcome this key current barrier. These involve eliciting mental models behind policy decision, changing perspectives to better understand divergent points of view and refining strategies through explicit theories of change. Games designed to represent the constraints and opportunities that exist in the landscapes can help decision makers in these tasks.

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