Topic 1: Origins of sustainable forest management


In the first topic of this module, we will look at the development of sustainable forest management. Current forest management practices evolved simultaneously in different parts of the world, although there was a common beginning in central Europe about 300 years ago. In some cases, attempts (usually unsuccessful) were made to strictly apply these early techniques designed for European forests to forests around the world. However, mostly, there have been local adaptations that take into account the tremendous diversity of forest types around the world.

It is particularly important that sustainable forest management did not develop in isolation. In particular concerns about the environment, and what humans are doing to it, progressively increased in the second half of the 20th century, resulting in the development of the ‘environmental movement’. Issues such as air and water pollution garnered a great deal of attention, resulting in strict legislation in some countries. Similarly concerns of water supply, loss of biodiversity, access to forests and other issues have all resulted in various types of legislation in many countries, with an impact on the way that forests are managed.

The written text addresses some of these issues, and provides a little background. It focuses on the evolution of ecosystem management in the USA, particularly in the Pacific Northwest where concerns about the future of the Northern Spotted Owl promoted major changes in forest management. The presentation discusses some of the international aspects of the background to the changes in forest management practices, emphasizing the importance of international activities such as the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992, and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.

Background Info

Adobe has made PDF files a widely accepted standard. You must have a reader application to open PDF files, if the PDF cannot be displayed.

Open the pdf file in new window here

Video Lectures

1.1.1 The evolving context of sustainable forest management

1.1.2 Sustainable development

1.1.3 Findings of millennium ecosystem effectiveness

1.1.4 Origins of sustainable forest management


Further reading:

  • Chistensen, N.L., Bartuska, A.M., Brown, J.H., Carpenter, S., D’Antonio, C., Francis, R., Franklin, J.F., MacMahon, J.A., Noss, R.F., Parsons, D.J., Peterson, C.H., Turner, M.G., & Woodmansee, R.G. (1996). The report of the ecological society of America committee on the scientific basis for ecosystem management. Ecological Applications, 6 (3), 665-691. DOI:2307/2269460
  • Gauthier, S., Vaillancourt, M.-A., Leduc, A., De Grandpré, L., Kneeshaw, D., Morin, H., Drapeau, P., & Bergeron, Y. (Eds.). (2009). Ecosystem management in the boreal forest. Québec: Presses de l’Université du Québec. ISBN-10:2760523810; ISBN-13: 978-2760523814
  • Grumbine, R.E. (1994). What is ecosystem management? Conservation Biology 8, 27-38.
  • Hammond, H. (2009). Maintaining whole systems on Earth’s crown: Ecosystem-based conservation planning for the boreal forest. Slocan Park, British Columbia: Silva Forest Foundation. ISBN-10:0973477903; ISBN-13: 978-0973477900
  • Lertzman, K., Spies, T., & Swanson, F. (1997). From ecosystem dynamics to ecosystem management. In: P.K. Schoonmaker, B. von Hagen, & E.C. Wolf (Eds.) The rain forests of home: Profile of a North American bioregion. Washington DC: Island Press. pp. 361-382. ISBN-10:1559634804; ISBN-13: 978-1559634809


Module I - Topic 1: Self-test

Quiz Description:

The following self-test quiz is designed to check your understanding of important learning concepts for this topic. The quiz contains ten multiple choice questions. There is no time limit for you to take the quiz and you may attempt to take it as many times as you like. After you click the Submit button, you will see your Grade, number of Correct Answers, your answers, and the Answer Key for each question.

Quiz Instructions:

While you are taking the quiz, we advise you not referring to any course materials. After you Submit your answers, you may self-reflect the missing points, review relevant contents as necessary, and retake the quiz again until you get the full points

Answer the following questions to see how well you have learnt in this topic: