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Systems of Sustainable Forest Management

7.5 ECTS Copenhagen Year 1 Semester 1 Compulsory Integrative/inter/transdisciplinary TEMP010500


This course introduces you to sustainable forest management’s biophysical and political foundations. Emphasis is on the biological definitions and silvicultural systems of sustainable forest management, including why middle and low-income countries often fail to implement them. The learning methods include a combination of guided readings, in-class discussions and exercises, and online discussions and tests.

The course is organised under the themes of

  • Forests as a Gaia/Planet Earth component: biogeography, biodiversity, ecology
  • Sustained yield and harvesting regimes in natural forests, including forest inventory and growth predictions
  • Silvicultural management systems in natural, semi-natural, and plantation forests
  • The political ecology of scientific forest management, including the colonial legacy of empire forestry.

Recommended Academic Qualifications

The course draws on basic elements of ecology, economics, policy, and management of renewable natural resources, all or part of which a wide range of undergraduate programmes offer.

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.

Learning outcomes

This course introduces students to contemporary issues on forest utilisation and sustainable forestry principles, especially in middle and low-income countries. The aim is to give students a thorough understanding of management paradigms’ current and potential role in promoting biophysically sustainable utilisation of forest resources. Furthermore, the course demonstrates how biophysically sustainable forestry is technically possible while political interests and economic drivers conspire to degrade and clear many forests worldwide. In addition, the course illustrates how dominant narratives of ‘scientific’ forestry often create resistance because they lead to enclosure management regimes that dispossess and criminalise local people. Hence, forest management systems are not considered isolated but as products of or in tension with historical and contemporary political and economic contexts.

After finishing the course, students are expected to be able to:


  • Understand forestry’s potential and biophysical limitations in contributing to the sustainable development goals (SDGs) in middle and low-income countries.
  • Understand key contemporary issues in global forestry, including estimations of sustainable levels of harvesting, biophysically sustainable vs. sustained-yield forestry; silvicultural systems for sustainable utilisation of natural and semi-natural forests; the opportunities and risks of plantation forestry; the linkages between sustainable forestry paradigms, forest policy, observable practices, and how sustainable forestry might be achieved.
  • Describe/define scientific forestry/empire forestry, including its effects on contemporary forest management regimes.


  • Apply principles, theories, and frameworks of ecosystems to sustainable forestry schemes in case studies.
  • Judge the quality of scientific publications and dominant paradigms on sustainable forestry.
  • Apply principles of political ecology in the analysis of concrete cases of forest management and conservation
  • Communicate concisely and confidently in written format


  • Argue convincingly and think critically within the parameters of a particular academic discipline.
  • Reflect on the concept of biophysically sustainable forestry and the role of forests in promoting sustainability, especially concerning sustainable development goal no. 15, Life on Land.
  • Reflect on the role of scientific forestry/forest management regimes in relation to access to natural resources, livelihoods and citizen involvement.
  • Demonstrate the values of scholarship: inquiry, reflection, integrity, open-mindedness, evidence-based thinking, and collegiality.
  • Tackle problems by collecting, analysing, and evaluating appropriate qualitative and quantitative information and using it creatively.


Teaching and learning methods

The course is provided through classroom and online teaching and learning. Modules focus on integrating literature studies and exercises, including online discussions mediated by faculty. Exercises focus on understanding theory and applying theory on actual cases.


  • Preparation                134 hours
  • Lectures                      48 hours
  • E-learning                  24 hours
  • Total                            206 hours


Course materials include selected scientific articles, book chapters, lecture notes, video clips, and slideshows. These are all accessible through the course homepage.

Type of assessment

  • Individual
  • Written assignment
  • Written exam (essay that the students get one week to complete)
    Students are assessed through a teacher-commented assignment (essay).


  • Location : Copenhagen
  • ECTS granting : University of Copenhagen
  • Organisation : AgroParisTech, Czech University Of Life Sciences Prague, Technische Universität Dresden, University of Padua, University of Copenhagen


Thorsten Treue

Pr Thorsten Treue

  • Full professor (PhD)
  • University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen Denmark