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Risk, knowledge, and trust in managing forest insect disturbance

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Understanding perceptions of risks, awareness, and trust in management agencies is critical to effective management of large-scale forest insect disturbance. In this study, we examined regional variation in public perceptions of risk, compared public and land managers’ perceptions, and examined knowledge and trust as factors in shaping public perceptions of a mountain pine beetle (MPB) (Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins) infestation. Survey data were collected from residents (n = 1303) in three regions of Alberta and from land managers (n = 43) responsible for MPB management. Results showed that residents had moderate or great concern for MBP risks, they were not well informed about MPB, and they showed slight trust in the provincial government and forest industry to manage the beetle. There was regional variation in perceptions of risks, knowledge, and trust. Land managers were less concerned about nontimber effects and had higher trust than the public. A positive correlation between trust and risk perceptions appears to contradict the risk literature. This relationship may be influenced by an intervening effect of knowledge. These results call for more attention to the content of risk messaging and the effects of trust and knowledge on the general public who take up these messages.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, 5320-122 Street, Edmonton, AB T6H 3S5, Canada. 2: Department of Resource Economics & Environmental Sociology, 515 General Services Building, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2H1, Canada.

Publication date: April 14, 2012

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  • Published since 1971, this monthly journal features articles, reviews, notes and commentaries on all aspects of forest science, including biometrics and mensuration, conservation, disturbance, ecology, economics, entomology, fire, genetics, management, operations, pathology, physiology, policy, remote sensing, social science, soil, silviculture, wildlife and wood science, contributed by internationally respected scientists. It also publishes special issues dedicated to a topic of current interest.
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