Scientific base

Whatever your role or interest in forest reproductive material, you will need to have an understanding of how it "works" biologically. A basic knowledge may be adequate, but it may need to be advanced. The way trees and forests reproduce is, on the one hand, quite simple to understand - but the more you need to work in detail, the more complicated it becomes. The need for a scientific understanding to underpin your work is probably greatest in this branch of forestry than any other. The relevant sciences are biology, silviculture and genetics that are listed below with their main topics.


Knowledge of tree seed and vegetative reproductive biology is fundamental. Good techniques of selection, collection, testing, storage, etc. as well as the other applied sciences of silviculture and genetic improvement depend on a good understanding of their biological basis. The key topics are: basic cellular processes; taxonomy of the flowering plants; form and development of trees; vegetative growth; formation of flowers, flower structure and function (pollination and fertilisation), fruit development, seed development, fruit maturity and seed dispersal; conditions for seed germination, germination processes, and seedling growth and development. Most textbooks on plant propagation or seed handling will have sections on seed biology.


Silviculture applies biological knowledge so as to use and improve trees and forests for the goods and services they provide. Key topics are: climate environment; ecological systems - structure, functions and processes (especially natural regeneration); context and objectives of silviculture; silvicultural systems in natural forest (i.e.encouraging regeneration of selected species, improving growth, control of pests etc); afforestation methods (artificial regeneration); species and provenance selection; plant production including nursery techniques; plantation techniques (e.g. plant density, thinning, pruning, weeding, etc.); harvesting methods; and individual species ecology and silviculture. Silvicultural textbooks may have detailed notes about individual species, and their reproduction.


Genetics combines both biology and silviculture to understand and improve the quality and quantity of tree and forest goods and services that are under genetic control. Topics include: basic genetic principles and concepts; population genetics (selection, mutation, migration, isolation); controlled pollination; vegetative propagation; establishment and measurement of test plantations (species, provenance, clonal etc); breeding methods; seed orchards and management; species and provenance testing; hybridisation; advanced techniques, including genetic engineering. Genetics textbooks may include information on biology.

Of course, these are not the only sciences required for successful use of forest reproductive material - social, managerial, economic, and political sciences will also be essential - but they must be applied to a foundation of sound, applied, biological knowledge.

SeeFinding out more - Selected references - Generalfor some helpful basic texts on the above sciences.
last updated:  Thursday, February 21, 2008