The Institute of Forest Management deals with all the different aspects of sustainability (ecology, economics and social concerns) on a larger spatial scale (beyond the stand level). These aspects were formerly taught and explored by a discipline called “Forsteinrichtung” (forest planning), which had coined the term “sustainability” over 200 years before the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Concepts of securing sustainability are therefore still at the centre of research interests at the Institute of Forest Management.

Sustainability was once merely measured in terms of timber yield. Due to a more multi-functional orientation of forestry this approach is currently undergoing a shift towards integrating both ecological as well as economic concerns. Forestry is now able to satisfy the various requirements of modern forest cultivation. This has become possible by means of increasingly applying process optimisation techniques borrowed from the fields of management studies and operations research. With the help of existing silvicultural knowledge these methods can be transferred to sustainable planning in forestry and adequate inventory practices for its monitoring are derived.

Risk assessment plays a crucial role in the context of prudent, and thus implicitly sustainable, management of forests. For this purpose the discipline draws on portfolio theory, as developed by Nobel Prize Laureates in Economics Markowitz and Sharpe, just like on the method of stochastic dominance or the information-gap theory.

Research projects in Chile and Ecuador allow for these approaches to be applied beyond the analysis of pure forest management options to broader land use concepts.

However, in the course of Central European land-based forest inventories, information required to fulfil such requirements is only partially surveyed. Increased information about risk and insecurity involved in forestry planning is essential in order to ensure, for future generations, the largest amount of possible options and thus guarantee the protection of various interests in relation to sustainability. Therefore, a further development of inventory methods is another focus of the activities of the Institute.

The head of the institute is Prof. Dr. Thomas Knoke. His research focuses on assessing and quantifying possible risks that can severely affect forestry in the form of fluctuating timber prices and natural risks, such as wind, snow, fire and proliferation of insects.