What Does it Mean to be a Silviculturist?

R. Justin Derose, James N. Long, Kristen M. Waring, Marcella A. Windmuller-Campione, Andrew S. Nelson, Mark R. Nabel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Silviculture has been a dynamic discipline for over a century in North America. During that time, silviculture has been closely tied with dominant trends in society, from reforestation in the early nineteenth century to incorporating climate change, invasive species, and shifts in disturbance regimes during the twenty-first century, and the discipline continues to evolve. In this evolution, there have also been shifts to the definition of silviculture, from an art to art and science to recent proposals that it is strictly a science. We offer an alternative viewpoint in support of maintaining the contemporary definition that includes both art and science, supported by the role that silviculture plays in contemporary resource management and that silviculturists play in conducting both the strategic and tactical components of forest management. Despite the desire to recast silviculture as solely science, we argue that silviculturists need to be more artistic than ever, given the current era of rapidly changing social, ecological, and economic conditions. In addition to having a firm basis in science, silviculturists must also understand and practice their very important role as the honest broker between other resource professionals and society at large in the application of management on the ground. Study Implications: Silviculture has been practiced in North America for over 100 years. It is being shaped by remarkable developments in technology, evolving suites of interested parties and landowner objectives, and considerable climatic uncertainty. Silviculturists are being tasked with interpreting and applying science to accomplish increasingly complex objectives, often with scarce resources at large spatial scales; and all of this is being done in anticipation of further change. Silviculturists understand and accept these challenges and embrace the opportunity to be active stewards of the forests of tomorrow.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-193
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Forestry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2024


  • art
  • complexity
  • creativity
  • flexibility
  • innovation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Plant Science


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