What Is Forestry?

Forestry is a science and an art.

Forestry is defined as "the science and practice of managing forests and woodlands". The art of the forester is to blend different types of woodland into a cohesive, living unit called a forest.

But modern forestry is about far more than just growing trees for timber - it is multi-purpose.

Nowadays it embraces everything from planting and managing large coniferous forests to creating and tending small broadleaved woodlands, raising young trees in nurseries to felling and delivering timber to wood-using industries. Timber production still underpins forestry practices but at all levels the forestry staff's remit is broader than ever. Woods and forests are managed to offer multiple benefits for people, wildlife and the environment in general. They can provide havens for wildlife, screening and landscape enhancement, air filters and carbon sinks and cater for many types of recreation.

In a world where increasingly every second counts, growing trees is still a long-term process measured in decades. Very few foresters live to see the trees they planted grow to maturity or the harvesting stage.

Because timber takes a long time to grow, predicting now what the markets may be a century ahead is not easy.

Dawn © Forestry Commission

For example, in Nelson's time, oak trees were often planted with the idea of ensuring a continuous supply of bent or crooked timber needed for wooden warships. Few people could imagine that when those trees were actually ready to fell a good hundred years on, the whole scenario would have changed and the oak timbers would no longer be needed for that purpose.

Changes in market forces at a global level affect UK forestry. High value tropical timbers have been traded round the world for centuries - but nowadays low priced, bulk commodities such as timber for construction, paper and board are also shipped around the planet. Home grown timber is often priced off the market.

Except with the advantage of hindsight, who could accurately have forecast if and when the Iron Curtain would fall, opening up the softwood forests of the Baltic States to the western European market? The sudden influx of cheaper softwood timber from the Baltic States onto the world market depressed prices for home grown UK softwoods and had a marked adverse knock-on effect on home-grown UK timber prices.