Topic 1: Principles of Silviculture

Background Information

Successful establishment and maintenance of a forest that meets the multiple demands of society requires knowledge of life science (for instance botany, plant physiology), environment science (soil science, meteorology), ecology (forest ecology), economics and sociology. Forest ecology is the foundation of silviculture, which deals with the principles underlying the growth and development of single trees and of the forest as a biological unit. Silviculture connects life science and environmental science in order to better understand the relationships between trees, trees and the environment, and trees and other organisms. Silviculture also includes economics and sociology as it considers the demands people place on forests. The forestry practitioner must keep abreast of current knowledge and ideas through learning and practicing in all these fields.

With such a broad knowledge base, silviculture needs input from systems science. First, a forest is a complex system of interactions among trees, other vegetation, animals and the environment. It is not merely the sum of its individual parts therefore it must be studied as a system. Secondly, afforestation is a system engineering project involving many disciplines (e.g., forestry, economy, land resources, agriculture, water conservancy, animal husbandry, environmental protection, recreation) System science theories and applications are essential in order to successfully implement this complex task.

Video Lectures

View the following video lectures:

1.1.1 Forest site

1.1.2 Species selection

1.1.3 Forest structure (I)

1.1.4 Forest structure (II)

Additional Resources

  1. Silviculture. (n.d.). Retrieved March 18, 2015, from
    This article explains some basic concepts and common methods in silviculture.
  1. Silviculture. (n.d.). Retrieved March 18, 2015, from
    This article introduces the history, processes, and harvesting systems of silviculture.
  1. Silvicultural Systems Guidebook. (1995). Retrieved from
    This Silvicultural Systems Guidebook will aid you to choose a silvicultural system. This process includes setting resource management objectives at the stand-level, goals of stand structure, and requirements for field data collection. Then the silvicultural system alternatives and the silvicultural system prescription are evaluated against the requirements of the Forest Practices Code of British Columbia Act and higher-level plans. The Silvicultural Systems Guidebook promotes consistency in silvicultural terminology throughout British Columbia, as a common reference for silvicultural definitions and concepts.
  1. Plantation. (n.d.). Retrieved March 18, 2015, from
    This article discusses the concept, growth cycle, criticism and types of industrial plantations.
  1. Smith, D. M., Larson, B. C., Kelty, M. J., & Ashton, P. M. S. (1997). The practice of silviculture: applied forest ecology.New York, NY : Wiley. ISBN: 978-0-471-10941-9
    This book is intended to serve as a collection of ideas about silviculture and analytical approaches to its practices. It was written primarily for use in North America. However, the principles of silviculture are independent of geography, even though natural and socioeconomic diversity make the application of the principles highly variable.

Self-test for Topic 1

Reflection Questions:

  1. How do you evaluate site quality?
  2. What methods can you use to assess site quality in a place without any vegetation?
  3. What are the criteria of species selection for a timber production forest?
  4. How do you select species that are appropriate for the site?
  5. How do you determine the initial density of plantation?
  6. What are the advantages of mixed species forest from the standpoint of pest control?

After formulating your answers, you may post them online at the Knowledge Café for this course as a way to share your ideas and glean knowledge from other students’ responses.