FEM-30306 Forest Ecology and Forest Management


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Field practical31
Independent study
Course coordinator(s)dr. M Peña Claros
Lecturer(s)dr. M Peña Claros
prof. dr. ir. L Poorter
prof. dr. FJJM Bongers
L Goudzwaard
prof. dr. ir. GMJ Mohren
Examiner(s)prof. dr. ir. L Poorter

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

Bachelors in Biology, Forest and Nature Conservation, Plant Science, Resource Management or similar fields BIS

Continuation courses:

Thesis Forest ecology and forest management.


The main objectives of this course are 1) to provide an overview of the state of the art in the fields of forest ecology and forest management, and 2) how we can integrate the two fields as a basis for sustainable forest management for the provisioning of forest resources and other ecosystem services (e.g., carbon sequestration, biodiversity conservation). Sustainable forest management requires a sound knowledge of the environment and ecological functioning of the forest. Through the application of management treatments, one can intervenein the natural dynamics of the forest and guide the forest into a predefined, direction (management goal). In the course we will use examples from temperate and tropical forests.
The course consists of four elements: lectures on forest ecology; lectures on forest management, field excursions, and a practical, in which you spend a considerable time in the forest.
The course starts with lectures on forest ecology. We first discuss environmental conditions such as soil type and resource availability (light, water and nutrients), and how these abiotic factors vary in space and time. We then evaluate the causes and mechanisms of forest succession by focusing on: 1) disturbances that determine the availability of open sites, and how species differ in 2) availability, and 3) performance. This provides an ideal framework to understand forest functioning, and how management interventions can affect forest regeneration and dynamics and steer succession. The lectures on forest management will increase your understanding and knowledge about the effects of a variety of management treatments, such as thinning, pruning, and seedling enrichment on forest ecological processes. A close link will be made with forest ecology discussed earlier. Additionally, we will explain the underlying mechanisms and processes of some of the major silvicultural systems in temperate and tropical forests. Several trips will be made to Dutch forest sites to clarify and illustrate ecological concepts in the field. The course will be completed with a three weeks practical in which you design a silvicultural system for a Dutch forest based on specific objectives and using the ecological knowledge obtained during the course. A forest inventory is part of this practical.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- discuss the state of the art of the ecology and management of temperate and tropical forests and discuss the strengths and limitations of the current paradigms;
- summarize the causes and mechanisms of natural succession (disturbances, availability of open sites, differences in species availability and performance);
- recognize forest ecological processes and management interventions in the field, and interpret them in the context of forest development processes;
- evaluate different forest management systems in temperate and tropical forest in relation to their underlying ecological and silvicultural mechanisms;
- appraise how silvicultural interventions can be applied to mimic natural disturbances and steer forest regeneration, -development, and -succession;
- apply different forest inventory techniques to evaluate forest structure and composition, and to evaluate the pro's and con's of the different techniques;
- design a sustainable silvicultural system for a specific forest to meet the management objectives while taking the environmental conditions, species ecology, and ecological processes into account.


- attendance of lectures on the ecology and management of forests;
- participate in field excursions to several forest management systems in the Netherlands;
- do a forest inventory and analyse data;
- design a specific silvicultural system for a Dutch forest.
You are required to attend all elements of the course.


The final mark consists of 3 parts: First written interim examination (25%), second written examination (45%), and the practical report (30%). The first examination is two weeks after the start of the course about the ecological part (lectures, reader, handouts). You will pass the course if you have more than a 5.5 for the theoretical part (the weighted average of the two exams) and for the practical report. In case you have to take a re-examination, your mark for the theoretical part will be based on the re-examination only.


The course reader can be obtained at cost price at the WUR Shop.

Restricted Optional for: MBIBiologyMScD: Conservation and Systems Ecology5AF
MFNForest and Nature ConservationMScC: Ecology5AF
MFNForest and Nature ConservationMScB: Management5AF