Forest Ecology

Forest Ecology

Application of a thorough understanding of the properties and processes of a forest  ecosystem is key to the sustainable management of that forest. This module provides an overview of these  basic concepts, and describes how these concepts can be applied in the management of forests as complex adaptive systems.

Learning Objectives

After viewing this presentation and relevant support material, users should be able to:

  • Detail the meaning of ecosystems and ecology.  This includes the structural components (e.g., biodiversity) and functions (e.g. nutrient cycling, succession) that constitute forest ecosystems at different spatial and temporal scales;
  • Describe disturbance ecology, including the components of disturbance regimes, some of the major disturbance agents, and successional processes that result from disturbance;
  • Explain the role site and climatic factors, disturbance and succession play in shaping forest communities;
  • Explain the basics of forest energetics, productivity, nutrient/carbon cycling in forest ecosystems;
  • Describe concepts of biological diversity, resilience, stability, sustainable forest management, and complex adaptive systems.
  • Describe the paradigm shift toward managing forests as complex adaptive systems.


Dr. Suzanne Simard, Professor

Listen to Dr. Simard respond to the question: How did I get interested in this area of study?

For more information about Dr. Simard, please check UBC, Faculty of Forestry

Module Resources

Before viewing a presentation or lab, be sure to read the instructions on using this resource.


Introduction to Forest Ecology
Dr. Suzanne Simard integrates a description of ecological concepts as biodiversity, disturbance and succession, trophic levels, biogeochemical cycling, and system resiliency with a discussion of the management of forests as complex adaptive systems in relation to current global climatic changes.

Other Resources

  • Perry, D.A., R. Oren and S.C. Hart. 2008. Forest Ecosystems. 2nd Edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
  • Chapin, F.S, P.A. Matson and H.A. Mooney. 2003. Principles of Terrestrial Ecosystem Ecology. Springer, New York.
  • Kimmins, J.P. 1996. Forest Ecology. Third edition. Princeton Hall, New Jersey.

Potential Questions for use by Instructors

  1. Forest ecosystems are highly variable in composition. What are the ecological factors that affect forest composition over space and time?
  2. Explain how carbon cycling is affected by forest harvesting. Based on these principals, suggest three management approaches for mitigating forest management effects on climate change.
  3. What are key indicators of sustainable forest management? What are some important indicators that sustainable forest management is not being achieved world-wide? Explain a conceptual approach to sustainable forest management.