Future forest scenarios

The Forest Monitoring and Improvement Program (FMIP) engaged eminent experts in forestry, resilience, and future thinking to work with agency representatives in developing scenarios representing different plausible futures for NSW forests to 2050.

A final report has been delivered outlining eight NSW Forest Futures scenarios. The scenarios range from optimistic to pessimistic futures.

The scenarios are intended to prompt decision-makers to imagine how different futures could develop, and challenge existing assumptions and logic around forest management. While NSW has typically used scenario analysis to inform infrastructure and transport planning, little has been done for future forests. This project has drawn on existing knowledge and expertise on strategic scenario development across the NSW Government and its knowledge partners and applied it in a new context.

The work focuses on the implications of each future scenario, with an emphasis on different forest values and community expectations from the short to long-term. The scenarios consider climate change predictions and address the level of certainty related to key drivers of change for forest management and forest values, although the likelihood of each scenario has not yet been assessed.

These are initial scenarios and should mark the beginning of an enduring process to further explore, challenge and improve our understanding of potential alternative futures as part of a structured, forward-looking approach to forest management based on futures thinking.

The authors suggest opportunities to further improve the scenarios over time, for example further exploring, challenging and refining the current scenarios by engaging with a wider range of stakeholders and knowledge holders, including stakeholders outside government. Most important, the authors note that future forest thinking will be most powerful when embedded in the culture of organisations responsible for planning and managing NSW forest.


The scenarios were developed by a team of experts in collaboration with NSW agencies. The expert team was led by Professor Peter Kanowski (ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society) and included futurist Adjunct Professor Steve Cork (ANU Crawford School of Public Policy), resilience expert Dr Steven Lade (ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society and Stockholm Resilience Centre) and Dr Simon Ferrier (CSIRO).

The expert team undertook a series of five interactive cross-agency workshops, with further consultation with agency staff and small groups on a suite of proposed scenarios. All NSW Government agencies responsible for managing or monitoring NSW forests across all tenures were involved in the workshops and process.

Key documents