Forest management is a branch of forestry concerned with overall administrative, legal, economic, and social aspects, as well as scientific and technical aspects, such as silviculture, protection, and forest regulation. This includes management for timber, aesthetics, recreation, urban values, water, wildlife, inland and nearshore fisheries, wood products, plant genetic resources, and other forest resource values. Management objectives can be for conservation, utilisation, or a mixture of the two. Techniques include timber extraction, planting and replanting of different species, building and maintenance of roads and pathways through forests, and preventing fire.
The forest is a natural system that can supply different products and services. Forests supply water, mitigate climate change, provide habitats for wildlife including many pollinators which are essential for sustainable food production, provide timber and fuelwood, serve as a source of non-wood forest products including food and medicine, and contribute to rural livelihoods.
The working of this system is influenced by the natural environment: climate, topography, soil, etc., and also by human activity. The actions of humans in forests constitute forest management. In developed societies, this management tends to be elaborated and planned in order to achieve the objectives that are considered desirable.
Some forests have been and are managed to obtain traditional forest products such as firewood, fiber for paper, and timber, with little thinking for other products and services. Nevertheless, as a result of the progression of environmental awareness, management of forests for multiple use is becoming more common.
There has been increased public awareness of natural resource policy, including forest management. Public concern regarding forest management may have shifted from the extraction of timber for economic development, to maintaining the flow of the range of ecosystem services provided by forests, including provision of habitat for wildlife, protecting biodiversity, watershed management, and opportunities for recreation. Increased environmental awareness may contribute to an increased public mistrust of forest management professionals. But it can also lead to greater understanding about what professionals do for forests for nature conservation and ecological services. The importance of taking care of the forests for ecological as well as economical sustainable reasons has been shown in the TV show Ax Men.
Many tools like remote sensing, GIS and photogrammetry modelling have been developed to improve forest inventory and management planning. Since 1953, the volume of standing trees in the United States has increased by 90% due to sustainable forest management.
The abundance and diversity of birds, mammals, amphibians and other wildlife are affected by strategies and types of forest management.
Forest management varies in intensity from a leave alone, natural situation to a highly intensive regime with silvicultural interventions. Forest Management is generally increased in intensity to achieve either economic criteria (increased timber yields, non-timber forest products, ecosystem services) or ecological criteria (species recovery, fostering of rare species, carbon sequestration).
Most of the forests in Europe have management plans; on the other hand, management plans exist for less than 25 percent of forests in Africa and less than 20 percent in South America. The area of forest under management plans is increasing in all regions – globally, it has increased by 233 million ha since 2000, reaching 2.05 billion ha in 2020.