What Is Sustainable Forest Management? - Definition and Examples

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  • 0:07 Forests
  • 1:29 Sustainable Forest Management
  • 2:25 Examples of…
  • 3:29 Forest Principles
  • 4:14 Benefits of…
  • 5:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Sustainable forest management ensures that forest resources are preserved to meet the needs of future generations. Learn about sustainable forest management and see examples of how it is put into practice.


Have you ever thought about what life would be like without forests? The fact is that life as you know it, whether you live in a concrete jungle, like New York City, or in an actual jungle, like the Amazon of South America, would not be possible without forests. Why? Well, for one thing, forests capture and store carbon dioxide, keeping it out of the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, trap the sun's heat and are thought to cause excessive warming of the earth's surface. Forests also play an important role in the circulation of water from the Earth to the atmosphere, known as the 'water cycle'. Trees suck up groundwater and release it into the air as water vapor.

Beyond what trees do for our climate, they can be used as a source of fuel or turned into wood products, such as lumber or wood pulp for paper. The mere presence of a forest serves as protection against harsh weather events, protects soil from erosion during rainfall, and provides habitats for many biologically diverse plants and animals. So, you can imagine that it is in our best interest to protect the world's forests. In this lesson, you will learn how forests can be managed to ensure their sustainability.

Sustainable Forest Management

Sustainable forest management, also known as sustainable forestry, is the practice of regulating forest resources to meet the needs of society and industry while preserving the forest's health. Therefore, sustainable forest management is always looking to strike a balance between the demand for the forest's natural resources and the vitality of the forest.

Now, in the most basic terms, a forest can be sustained by planting a new sapling for every tree that is removed. However, that is an oversimplified solution.

Proper management of a forest must take into account an assortment of factors, which are assessed by a forest manager, or forester, who is the individual responsible for managing the balance of a forest's environmental, commercial, and recreational viability. Let's look at some ways a forest manager might practice sustainable forestry.

Examples of Sustainable Forest Management

One of the examples of sustainable forest management that a forest manager might employ to avoid the complete removal of a forest is to use selective logging. Selective logging is the practice of removing certain trees while preserving the balance of the woodland. Selective logging is more time consuming and more expensive then clearing the trees, but it preserves the forest's assets.

Another example of a sustainable forestry practice is allowing young trees time to mature. While a young tree may have value, its value will increase as it matures. Proper forest management will take into account the potential value of trees and delay the harvest of immature trees. In this way, sustainable forest management protects the long-term value of the forest. Other examples of sustainable forestry involve the planting of trees to extend forestlands, as well as the creation of protected forests that provide safe habitats for various plant and animal species.

Forest Principles

Sustainable forest management was not a concern for many nations until the Forest Principles were adopted in 1992 at The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. The Forest Principles is a non-legally binding document that outlines suggestions for sustainable forestry.

This document provided the framework for the general understanding of what it meant to practice sustainable forestry. Even though this did not obligate national governments to put the principles into practice, it did bring to light the need for a global consensus on the proper management and conservation of forests, and stands out as a significant event in the history of sustainable forest management.

Benefits of Sustainable Forest Management

And, because the needs of society change over time, sustainable forest management is constantly evolving. Each forest area must be evaluated to ensure the forest will be healthy enough to meet the demands of future generations.

We see that there are many benefits of sustainable forest management, such as recreational opportunities. Managed forests provide suitable environments for nature lovers to enjoy hiking, hunting, and wildlife observation. Speaking of wildlife, sustained forests provide a natural habitat for many plant and animal species, which allows for sustained biodiversity. A biologically diverse ecosystem is a stable ecological community and can provide valuable resources, such as the numerous medicinal plants found in tropical forests.

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