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An Automated Content Analysis of Forestry Research: Are Socioecological Challenges Being Addressed?


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Forests worldwide are increasingly threatened by a wide range of human-induced socioecological challenges, such as urbanization, invasive species, and climate change. Using automated content analysis, we analyzed 14,855 abstracts published in seven prominent applied forestry journals between 2000 and 2013 to determine the degree to which these publications are providing forest managers with the information needed to address these challenges. We found that most articles still focus on more traditional forestry topics (e.g., silviculture and timber harvesting), with limited evidence of effort to address socioecological challenges. Although these traditional topics are essential to forest management, framing this research within the broader context of contemporary socioecological challenges will improve forest managers' abilities to address these challenges and contribute to the sustainability of forest ecosystems.

Management and Policy Implications: Forests are impacted by many socioecological challenges (i.e., human-induced stressors, such as urbanization, climate change, invasive species, and others) that hinder their ability to provide important ecosystem services sustainably. A key role of forest researchers is to provide forest managers with the information required to address these challenges, with applied forestry journals potentially serving as a channel for information transfer between these two parties. Nevertheless, we found that much of the research published in these journals focuses on more traditional forestry topics and provides little information/guidance on how to address contemporary socioecological challenges. We recommend three ways in which forest researchers can meet this need while still reporting important traditionally based forestry research: by placing traditionally based research into the broader context of ecosystem services and socioecological challenges, by promoting interdisciplinary thinking through communication of how research findings relate to social and economic aspects of forestry, and by making sure this information is highlighted in the abstracts of research articles to ensure its communication to even those readers just scanning an article. These recommendations will help to communicate still-needed, traditionally based forestry research in a way that helps forest managers to address contemporary socioecological challenges.

Keywords: automated content analysis; ecosystem services; interdisciplinary; literature review; research gaps; socioecological challenges

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 8, 2017

This article was made available online on December 8, 2016 as a Fast Track article with title: "An Automated Content Analysis of Forestry Research: Are Socioecological Challenges Being Addressed?".

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