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What are you considering making more resilient?

It is essential to be clear about the focus of your thinking. For example, you might focus on the ecological integrity of woodland, in which case the system might be defined by the tree species or woodland type (e.g. an oak woodland). Alternatively, you might want to focus on the resilience of your organisation, which includes objectives beyond forest management. Different spatial scales (e.g. the size of woodland or number of sites) and timeframes (influenced by budgets or management plans) will impact the assessment of threats and appropriate actions. It is also necessary to define the main functions or services that you want the system to maintain over these scales. The table below contains guiding questions that will help to pin down the system identity and some examples from our case studies.

Guiding questions and examples for Step 1

Guiding questions applicable to all settings

Forest management company

County council

(a) What is the system? For example, woodland, ecosystem, organisation, business.

A large privately-owned upland conifer plantation dominated by Sitka spruce

The entire county's treescape, including both publicly and privately-owned trees, from street trees to ancient woodlands

(b) What is the timeframe being considered? For example, years, decades, centuries.

35-40 years to match the average rotation length

Working to a 25-year vision with 5-year management plans whilst keeping longer timescales in mind

(c) What is the spatial scale being considered? For example, local, catchment, regional, national.

The entire 600-hectare forest site

County scale

(d) What are the main functions / services to be maintained?

To generate financial returns for investors

Multiple objectives (e.g. amenity, biodiversity, carbon sequestration) reflecting the diverse ownership

Hints and tips for Step 1

  • Clear system identification is important and will ease progression through later steps. Testing ideas among colleagues can be helpful and reaching a common understanding will be important if the group work is to continue (see box below).
  • You may want to repeat the steps to focus on more than one system (e.g. a single woodland and a group of sites at a landscape level). This can be performed in parallel or one after the other.
  • Defining timescales in the context of trees and ecosystems can be challenging. It may be dictated by management plans, budgets and rotation length that provide intervention points.
  • Sometimes the system of interest becomes clearer after working through subsequent steps. You can return to Step 1 to refine the identification later in the process.
  • It may be useful to start broadly and then narrow in on the system later to avoid missing some threats.
  • If the aim is to manage a transformation to a new system, use the same guiding questions to help identify both the current system and the future desired system.

Facilitating different opinions

Definitions and areas of priority can differ between and within teams. As a facilitator, it is important to allow each person the opportunity to contribute, and to challenge the group to question the current way of thinking. It might be useful to mind map all the definitions of resilience and possible systems. This can help the group reflect on the similarities and differences. It might also be useful to refer to this later to see if there have been any changes of opinion after the workshop.

When defining the system, it might be worth considering all versions of the system (e.g. wildlife, economic, business or species) before deciding on a single definition that suits your context. It is possible to adjust your focus as you discuss each step. It is also possible to return to Step 1 and change how the system is defined later in the workshop.

Next: go to Step 2
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