Risk management doesn’t mean trying to address all risks in all ways, “riding off in all directions,” spending money, time, energy, and social capital trying to drive every risk we identify to zero. There is no shortage of risks to manage. But neither does it mean just “hunkering down,” waiting to see what happens. No-action can be the riskiest action of all. And it’s not a very good way to learn. To learn forward, you have to lean forward. As my grandfather told me, “You can’t steer that bicycle unless you get it moving.”
Risk management is useful for helping us to decide and to explain how we have decided what not to do as much as what to do. It doesn’t make the decisions any easier, but it can help us make tradeoffs and opportunities more clear and guide us to making the highest possible reduction across multiple risks. We will need all the help we can get in sorting through which risks to handle first and how far to go in reducing particular risks. Read more »
We face multiple risks every day as resource managers. We are pretty good at intuitively understanding the likelihoods of different hazards, the uncertainties around them, and their potential impacts on the resources we value, and we use this understanding in our resource management decisions. But the risks we manage are rapidly changing with the climate. Sustainability can no longer presume stationarity. To sustain the benefits of our forests and grasslands, our risk management approach itself must adapt to changing means and extremes. We may have to become even better at the techniques and principles of risk management. Our experience and intuition will only take us so far in a rapidly changing world.
Risk can be defined as exposure to a chance of loss. Losses can be ecological, social, or economic, expressed in absolute terms or in a sense of failure to reach a goal or a desired condition. The link between exposure and loss is vulnerability, shaped by the likelihood and magnitude of hazards (stressors) and by the sensitivity of resources to stressors and its capacity to cope with and recover from stress. Understanding exposures, vulnerabilities, and losses and taking actions to reduce losses within the limits of financial and organizational capacities is the discipline of risk management. Risk management can allow us to capture opportunities as well as reduce or avoid losses. A stressor event – fire, epidemic, flood, landslide – can create opportunities for transition to more resilient conditions, for retreat from high exposure zones, or for learning to avoid similar losses in other places. Read more »
This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
In forests, climate change ramps up stress already occurring from extreme weather events, disease and insect outbreaks, catastrophic wildfires, and invasive species. Resilient forests are better able to absorb stress without compromising the services they afford. In the same way that good sleep, healthy diet, and regular exercise make a person resilient (though not immune) to illness, forests can be helped towards resiliency by management practices that focus on sustaining or restoring ecological integrity in relation to future conditions. While neither the many threats to forests nor the management approaches available to abate them are new to forest managers, climate change introduces additional pressure and the need for the rapid translation of emerging science into forest management practice. Read more »
Bedford, Ind., May 5, 2011 -- A group of Hoosier National Forest employees plant chestnut trees in a timber sale area of the Hoosier to return the American chestnut to its native range (Photo Credit: US Forest Service).
Once a prominent phenomenon in southern Indiana, Bedford just experienced the first re-planting of American chestnut trees on the Hoosier National Forest in partnership with Purdue University and the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station. Read more »
The hidden beauty of a mangrove forest.
Mangroves have declined by nearly half in the last 50 years. This is disconcerting to scientists because the hardy brackish tidal tree in an important bulkhead against climate change, according to findings is a recent study published in the journal Nature Geoscience. Read more »
Remember the good old days when you only got the “spring sniffles” for a few weeks as the new leaves began sprouting on the trees? And doesn’t it seem like now, for some reason, you’re taking your antihistamine almost as often as you take your multi-vitamin? That’s not your imagination; that’s climate change at work.
A USDA scientist and his collaborators have proven that ragweed pollen in some parts of the northern United States and Canada now hangs around almost a month longer than it did as recently as 1995. The researchers’ results show those increases are correlated to seasonal warming shifts linked to climate change dynamics in the higher latitudes. Read more »