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How (Un)Certain Is the Future in Forestry? A Comparative Assessment of Uncertainty in the Forest and Agricultural Sector

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Several authors have stated that, because of the long time horizons underlying forestry processes, the forest sector encounters far more uncertainty than is experienced by any other industrial or agricultural production processes, especially regarding the long future. To gain more insight into the extent to which foresters experience uncertainty in their work field, a content analysis has been carried out to reveal how foresters from the United States and (Germanic) Central Europe (Germany, Austria, and Switzerland) experience uncertainty. The outcomes were compared with the experiences of uncertainty in a more short-term oriented sector, namely the agricultural sector (also in the United States and in Central Europe). Although the findings must be interpreted carefully, the research reveals that, in contrast to what was expected, foresters experience the future as the most certain time period. Decisionmakers in forestry, as in other business sectors, seem to ignore the uncertainty and pretend that the future is certain. This strategy implies considerable risk and, therefore, for forest management to be effective, there is no other way than actively confronting the futurity dilemma.

Keywords: agriculture; content analysis; doctrine of the long run; forestry; uncertainty

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-06-01

More about this publication?
  • Forest Science is a peer-reviewed journal publishing fundamental and applied research that explores all aspects of natural and social sciences as they apply to the function and management of the forested ecosystems of the world. Topics include silviculture, forest management, biometrics, economics, entomology & pathology, fire & fuels management, forest ecology, genetics & tree improvement, geospatial technologies, harvesting & utilization, landscape ecology, operations research, forest policy, physiology, recreation, social sciences, soils & hydrology, and wildlife management.
    Forest Science is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December.

    2015 Impact Factor: 1.702
    Ranking: 16 of 66 in forestry

    Average time from submission to first decision: 62.5 days*
    June 1, 2016 to Feb. 28, 2017

    Also published by SAF:
    Journal of Forestry
    Other SAF Publications
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