Attending to nature: Understanding care and caring relations in forest management in the UK

Trish O'Flynn*, Hilary Geoghegan, Alison Dyke, Annemarieke de Bruin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Increasing threats from pests and diseases fundamentally question what forest management is and must do in the 21st century. The sociological concept of ‘care’ offers new understandings of forest management as intimate and emotional relationships between people and trees. In this paper, we examine the empirical realities of conservation forest management at a UK publicly owned site to reveal the social, economic, and institutional contexts of care and caring relations and their role in management decisions. This in-depth qualitative case study uses walking interviews with staff from all levels of the organisation and participatory data testing to show how care underpins the work of forest management, that forests are made and sustained through caring practices, and that management decisions are influenced by caring relations. Through the care framework we highlight the complexities of real-life decision-making and offer implications for forestry policy and practice. Applying the well-established components of care in a new setting, wherein the caring relations involve nonhumans, we extend care theory and demonstrate the potential of the single case study for deeply contextual forest and conservation research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)226-235
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Care
  • Conservation
  • Emotion
  • Forest management
  • Tree health
  • Trees


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