Silvology is the biological science of studying forests, incorporating the understanding of natural forest ecosystems, and the effects and development of silvicultural practices. The term compliments silviculture, which deals with the art and practice of forest management.
silvology, silvologist n.
silvological, silvologic, silvologous adj.
Silvology is based on the Latin silva (forests, woods) and Ancient Greek ology (study of).
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.
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)
In contrast to other disciplines no terminology has developed to distinguish the practice of silviculture from its scientific counterpart. For example, agronomy for agricultural science and technology; dendrology for the study of trees; and, ecology for the study of organisms and their interactions with environments. In a paper I wrote in 2018 with Jens Peter Skovsgaard, we argue that silvology is the appropriate term for the scientific discipline dealing with such activities and consequently a uniting term for qualitative and quantitative aspects of forest ecology and the practice of silviculture.
Hemery, G., and J.P. Skovsgaard. 2018. “Silvology: Redefining the Biological Science for the Study of Forests.” Quarterly Journal of Forestry 112 (April) (2): 128–31. Accessible here.