Reviewing the Use of Resilience Concepts in Forest Sciences

L. Nikinmaa*, M. Lindner, E. Cantarello, A.S. Jump, R. Seidl, G. Winkel, B. Muys

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

116 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose of Review: Resilience is a key concept to deal with an uncertain future in forestry. In recent years, it has received increasing attention from both research and practice. However, a common understanding of what resilience means in a forestry context and how to operationalise it is lacking. Here, we conducted a systematic review of the recent forest science literature on resilience in the forestry context, synthesizing how resilience is defined and assessed. Recent Findings: Based on a detailed review of 255 studies, we analysed how the concepts of engineering resilience, ecological resilience and social-ecological resilience are used in forest sciences. A clear majority of the studies applied the concept of engineering resilience, quantifying resilience as the recovery time after a disturbance. The two most used indicators for engineering resilience were basal area increment and vegetation cover, whereas ecological resilience studies frequently focus on vegetation cover and tree density. In contrast, important social-ecological resilience indicators used in the literature are socio-economic diversity and stock of natural resources. In the context of global change, we expected an increase in studies adopting the more holistic social-ecological resilience concept, but this was not the observed trend. Summary: Our analysis points to the nestedness of these three resilience concepts, suggesting that they are complementary rather than contradictory. It also means that the variety of resilience approaches does not need to be an obstacle for operationalisation of the concept. We provide guidance for choosing the most suitable resilience concept and indicators based on the management, disturbance and application context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-80
Number of pages20
JournalCurrent Forestry Reports
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Disturbance
  • Ecological resilience
  • Engineering resilience
  • Forest management
  • Indicators
  • Social-ecological resilience


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