Silvology – the study of forests and woods

silvology, silvologist n.
silvological, silvologic, silvologous adj.


Silvology is based on the Latin silva (forests, woods) and Ancient Greek ology (study of).

Silvology is forestry science. It incorporates both the understanding of natural forest ecosystems and the design of silvicultural systems.

Forest Ecosystems

A forest ecosystem is an area of forest consisting of the biotic elements (e.g. plants, mammals, insects, fungi, bacteria) and abiotic elements (e.g. soil, water, carbon, nutrients, sunlight).

Trees and shrubs are just one part of the forest ecosystem.  Every living creature, from the tiniest spider to the largest carnivorous mammal, is linked through the food chain, and dependent on the plants, fungi and bacteria in the forest. All these living elements are connected to and affected by the physical environment such as rainfall, wildfire, and temperature. 

Any intervention by man, including silviculture, may have an affect on the forest ecosystem.

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Silvicultural
Systems

Silviculture is the practice (note: not study) of managing the establishment, growth, composition, health, quality, and outputs of forests to meet diverse needs and values.

Silviculture has been described as an art and science; the latter is sometimes described as ‘applied forest ecology’.  Silvology is a more appropriate term.

Silvicultural systems are designed to ensure sustainable forest management, which is defined formally as:
the stewardship and use of forests and forest lands in a way, and at a rate, that maintains their biodiversity, productivity, regeneration capacity, vitality and their potential to fulfil, now and in the future, relevant ecological, economic and social functions, at local, national, and global levels, and that does not cause damage to other ecosystems (MCPFE)

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Silvology is not yet a widely adopted term but I am promoting it as important and necessary to describe the study of forests and woods.  No other term in the English language describes adequately this area of science.  For instance dendrology is the study of individual trees (i.e. not their interaction with the forest ecosystem), while silviculture describes the culture of forests (i.e. their management by man) not their study.

Read more about the origins of silvology

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