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Iles, Alastair. 1998. "The Evolution of Acidification Impact Frames in Europe: Assessment of Forest Conditions." Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (BCSIA) Discussion Paper E-98-19. Cambridge, MA: Environment and Natural Resources Program, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

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This paper investigates the processes of producing information about impacts for both national and regional decision-makers. Relatively little research from a historical perspective explores the complex interactions between politics, scientific methods and infrastructure, and assessment activities that shape this information. The forest impacts of acidification in Europe are among the most researched and assessed impacts under the Long Range Transport of Air Pollution Convention. Between the late 1970s and 1998, the regional and national assessment processes under the Convention have played a key role in assembling forest impacts from a growing mass of scientific and technical data.

This paper further develops the concept of "frames" as a research indicator to understand the evolution of forest impact assessment over time. Frames are social cognitive lens through which scientists, assessors, policy-makers, and lay people interpret environmental phenomena. They can become embodied in scientific research programs and assessment practices, and be communicated via assessment processes to scientists, assessors, policy-makers, and lay people. In the assessment and research of forest impacts, three broad impact frames can be glimpsed: forest decline, forest die-back, and forest health. This paper focuses on the regional assessment of forest impact frames by the Economic Council for Europe under the LRTAP Convention and in Finland, Germany, and the United Kingdom as specific comparative country studies.

Key conclusions include: interpretations of the causes and effects of forest damage in Western Europe have been influenced greatly by regional assessment processes that promote greater standardization and transnational analysis. The specific measures of forest damage, together with the research programs required to elucidate causal relationships, have been increasingly standardized across the member countries of the LRTAP regime. This is an attempt to establish and verify the forest damage problem as an "European" issue, not simply a national issue. The processes of building and reconstructing frames is closely intertwined with setting up a wide-ranging and complicated survey and research program that is carried out in many individual countries. Significantly, initial conditions (such as the adventitious use of surveys in Germany) can affect the broader structure and process of research and policy-making. Impact frames, however, do not remain static: they can undergo reconstruction over time through being influenced by new entrant actors, the emergence of new scientific data, or domestic politics, for example. Moreover, despite the shift towards standardization, scientists and policy-makers in each member country often interpret the specific character of forest impacts differently from other countries. This "local" knowledge can mean that specific countries may apply regional standards variably in their practices. It also can support their efforts to promote their interpretations of forest impacts within the regional assessment processes of the ECE.


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