Topic 1: Maintenance of Forest Ecosystem Productivity


A basic principle of forest management is to maintain or increase in the productivity of the forest ecosystem. This refers to all products of the forest, including both timber and non-timber forest products. Early forestry, as we saw in Module I, tended to focus on the production of timber, with ‘scientific forestry’ focusing on establishing and maintaining the yield of timber (known as sustained yield). This remains a focus of many forest operations, particularly plantations, but is becoming less important in the management of natural forests, where other values, such as the maintenance of biodiversity may be more important. Forest managers need to understand some of the basic principles surrounding ecosystem productivity, so that they can focus interventions at those points most likely to create a desirable effect.

There are a number of instances where forest productivity has not been maintained during forestry operations. Many harvesting operations have concentrated on the best trees in a forest, in a process now known as “high grading”. This is believed to have damaged the productivity of many forests due to the loss of some of the best genetic stock, although the actual evidence that this process is important in the long-term is limited. More often, declines in productivity have been associated with plantation species. In these cases, there has been poor species to site matching, or the available nutrients in the soils have been very limited and easily exhausted. For example, some Chinese fir (Cunninghamia lanceolata) plantations in China appear to have been established on very poor soils, and are showing signs of nutrient deficiency. Nutritional problems are particularly apparent on peat soils, as the nutrients in these are entirely derived from the atmosphere.

Video Lectures

4.1.1 Maintenance of productive capacity

4.1.2 Plantation forests

4.1.3 Productivity of plantations

4.1.4 Environmental concerns and trade-offs

4.1.5 Productivity indicators


Textbook Reading:

  • Chapter 4 of the course textbook:
    Innes, J., & Tikina, A. (Eds.). (2014). Sustainable forest management: From principles to practice. London: Earthscan Publications. ISBN: 1844077241

Further Reading:

In addition to this reading material, much useful information can be gained from the Forest Productivity website at .


Module IV - 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 remembered what you learnt in this topic: