From Management to Stewardship: Viewing Forests As Complex Adaptive Systems in an Uncertain World

C. Messier, K. Puettmann, R. Chazdon, K. P. Andersson, V. A. Angers, L. Brotons, E. Filotas, R. Tittler, L. Parrott, S. A. Levin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

156 Scopus citations


The world's forests and forestry sector are facing unprecedented biological, political, social, and climatic challenges. The development of appropriate, novel forest management and restoration approaches that adequately consider uncertainty and adaptability are hampered by a continuing focus on production of a few goods or objectives, strong control of forest structure and composition, and most importantly the absence of a global scientific framework and long-term vision. Ecosystem-based approaches represent a step in the right direction, but are limited in their ability to deal with the rapid pace of social, climatic, and environmental changes. We argue here that viewing forest ecosystems as complex adaptive system provides a better alternative for both production- and conservation-oriented forests and forestry. We propose a set of broad principles and changes to increase the adaptive capacity of forests in the face of future uncertainties. These span from expanding the sustained-yield, single-good paradigm to developing policy incentives and interventions that promote self-organization and integrated social-ecological adaptation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)368-377
Number of pages10
JournalConservation Letters
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


  • Complex adaptive systems
  • Global change
  • Resilience
  • Socioecological systems
  • Sustainable forest management


Dive into the research topics of 'From Management to Stewardship: Viewing Forests As Complex Adaptive Systems in an Uncertain World'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this