Forest History - Human utilisation and vegetation dynamics
Information from the course leader
Welcome to the course in Forest history 2022!
A preliminary (!) schedule is available now (June 2022).
If you have questions - please contact course leader Lars.Ostlund@slu.se
The course evaluation is now closed
Once the evaluation is closed, the course coordinator and student representative have 1 month to draft their comments. The comments will be published in the evaluation report.
Additional course evaluations for BI1414
Academic year 2023/2024
2023-08-28 - 2023-10-30
Syllabus and other information
BI1414 Forest History - Human utilisation and vegetation dynamics, 15.0 CreditsSkogshistoria - människans nyttjande av skogen och vegetationens dynamik
SubjectsForest Science Biology
Education cycleMaster’s level
Advanced study in the main fieldSecond cycle, has only first-cycle course/s as entry requirements
Master’s level (A1N)
The grade requirements within the course grading system are set out in specific criteria. These criteria must be available by the course start at the latest.
Prior knowledgeThe equivalent of 120 credits at basic level including
- 60 credits in Forest science or
- 60 credits in Forestry science
- 60 credits in Forest management or
- 60 credits in Biology or
- 60 credits in Soil science or
- 60 credits in Environmental sciences or
- 60 credits in Natural resource management or
- 60 credits in Natural geography or
- 60 credits in archeology or
- 60 credits in history
The overarching aim of this course is to provide an in-depth understanding of of the vegetation dynamics of forests in northern Europe in a millennial time perspective and a fundamental understanding of how people have utilized forests as a resource for fuel, grazing, food, and industrial raw materials and as a religious space, with a focus on recent centuries. This knowledge will also be put in a broader, international context to provide an overview of the past global vegetation development and comparisons of human use of other forest ecosystems in the world. During this course, students will become familiar with forest history research methods (historical records and paleoecological methods). Students will apply these methods in the field and recognize the interactions between people and forest ecosystems in an historical perspective. Key concepts include historical climate change, legacies of human forest use, and natural forest dynamics and transitions. This course will also provide useful skills on critical reading and scientific writing.
After completing the course the student should be able to
describe the vegetation development and climatic variations in northern European boreal zone during the Holocene and place the current state of the forest ecosystems in a historical perspective.
identify and evaluate the main drivers of ecosystem change that have shaped the boreal forest during the last few centuries.
use forest history methods in practice—pollen analysis, dendrochronology, and historical records— and summarize the potential and limitations of these methods.
identify traces related to Sami, agrarian, pre-industrial, and industrial uses in today’s forests (utilizing appropriate forest history tools), and explore ways to apply this knowledge to the relevant laws which protect the historical legacy of these traces.
account for the historical development of silvicultural methods in boreal forestry and how they have shaped current forests.
apply theories and knowledge of forest history to current forest management, biodiversity management, and management of the cultural heritage
synthesize and present gained knowledge orally and in writing.
This course is designed to introduce the students to a range of historical methods (e.g. dendrochronology, pollen analysis, and historical records) and will involve lectures, independent work in the field and the laboratory, as well as group work on written and oral reports from field projects and interviews. Training in scientific reading and writing will be provided at the start of the course and students will practice these skills during individual assignments and group projects. Students will also practice interview techniques for interpreting recent forest history.
The course consists of six parts:
A field component. In the field, the students will become familiar with forest inventory techniques and forest history methods as well as the forest history of Sami, and pre-industrial, and industrial periods. Most of the work will be conducted in groups; and the students will practice forest history inventory methods, conduct archaeological inventories of cultural remains, collect samples for dendrochronological analysis, and formulate a specific forest history research project.
Long-term boreal forest and vegetation history. This part of the course will cover the vegetation development (including climatic variations) during the Holocene, and the interconnection between people and forests over millenia. It will consist of a series of lectures and reading assignments. In the laboratory, students will explore ways to collect historical information in laboratory settings through practical dendrochronology and pollen analysis work.
Land use during the last 1000 years in the boreal forest.During the third part of the course, Sami land use in northern Europe, agricultural forest use (grazing, land use changes), pre-industrial forest use (potash, tar, charcoal), and the use of historical records to reconstruct history will be covered. This section will be conducted as lectures, reading assignments, and a lab practical on historical records.
The history of forestry and forest management.Through lectures and active participation in seminars, students will learn about the German roots of Swedish forestry, early forest management, "modern" forest management, timber-frontiers in Sweden and in North America, forest industrial development (including floating of timber), social dimension of forest work, gender issues in forest history, and historical and current debates in forest management.
Conservation, cultural legacies, and management - forest history as a tool for today. This component will utilize lectures and student seminars to discuss conservation and biodiversity, protection of the cultural heritage, baselines, and historical range of variation.
Synthesis. At the end of the course students will be asked to synthesize their knowledge achieved through fieldwork and laboratory work and to present it in the form of written reports.
Grading formThe grade requirements within the course grading system are set out in specific criteria. These criteria must be available by the course start at the latest.
Formats and requirements for examination
Approved participation in compulsory seminars and approved completion of oral and written assignments.
If a student has failed an examination, the examiner has the right to issue supplementary assignments. This applies if it is possible and there are grounds to do so.
The examiner can provide an adapted assessment to students entitled to study support for students with disabilities following a decision by the university. Examiners may also issue an adapted examination or provide an alternative way for the students to take the exam.
If this syllabus is withdrawn, SLU may introduce transitional provisions for examining students admitted based on this syllabus and who have not yet passed the course.
For the assessment of an independent project (degree project), the examiner may also allow a student to add supplemental information after the deadline for submission. Read more in the Education Planning and Administration Handbook.
The right to participate in teaching and/or supervision only applies for the course instance the student was admitted to and registered on.
If there are special reasons, students are entitled to participate in components with compulsory attendance when the course is given again. Read more in the Education Planning and Administration Handbook.
Additional informationThis course is given within the Masters Program in Forest Ecology and Sustainable Management.
SLU is environmentally certified according to ISO 14001. A large part of our courses
cover knowledge and skills that contribute positively to the environment. To further
strengthen this, we have specific environmental goals for the education. Students are
welcome to suggest actions regarding the course’s content and implementation that lead
to improvements for the environment. For more information, see webpage www.slu.se.
Department of Forest ecology and Management
Grading criteria Forest History 2022
In order to pass the course and get grade 3 you must:
1) Very actively participate in all mandatory exercises (fieldwork, seminars, labs)
2) Pass the examination of the lab-/fieldwork report Karats/Jokkmokk. The report is written jointly by a group of students and the grade for this report is pass or fail.
3) Pass the examination on minor reports etc to be turned in throughout the course.
4) Pass the examination on four discussion seminars during the course
5) Pass the examination on an interview report. Do a semi-structured qualitative interview with an elderly (60+yrs) relative (or someone you know otherwise) about his/her relation to the forest/forestry/forest work. Write a 3-5 page page report on this based on the questions that you have asked and with a complete reference to the person you have interviewed. Include historical photos, historical maps, historical documents pertaining to the area where this person has lived or worked.
In order to get a higher grade you can complete 2 of the following extra tasks (grade 4) or three of the extra tasks (grade 5). Each submitted task is graded pass or fail, but you will get one chance to improve the report.
* Read a book on forest history (widely interpreted) and write a two (max 3) page book report. Minimum 200 pages. The report should be well written in Swedish or English and contain the following; a) a condensed description of the most important content of the book, and b) a critical evaluation of how you perceived the book and its main message and c) a complete reference to the book including author, title, publication year, publisher and city of publication.
* Read a scientific journal paper on international forest history and compare this paper, in a two-page written report, to the one you already have read and presented at the seminar.
* Read and then criticize a scientific paper on Swedish forest history in a two-page report.
* Write a short (2-3 pages) history of a forest which is of special importance to you, for example a forest belonging to your family, a forest where you come from or a forest which you have visited.
All these task can be written in either English or Swedish and must be completed by the end of the course (unless otherwise decided during a discussion with Lars Östlund)! No final written exam on the course!
- If the student fails a test, the examiner may give the student a supplementary assignment, provided this is possible and there is reason to do so.
- If the student has been granted special educational support because of a disability, the examiner has the right to offer the student an adapted test, or provide an alternative assessment.
- If changes are made to this course syllabus, or if the course is closed, SLU shall decide on transitional rules for examination of students admitted under this syllabus but who have not yet passed the course.
- For the examination of a degree project (independent project), the examiner may also allow the student to add supplemental information after the deadline. For more information on this, please refer to the regulations for education at Bachelor's and Master's level.
This course provides a fundamental understanding of the vegetation dynamics of the boreal forest in a millennial time perspective and deep comprehension of how people have utilized these forests as a resource for fuel, grazing, food, and industrial raw materials and as a religious space. Significant themes include the history of forest management, boreal land use history related to different ethnic groups, and preservation of cultural and biodiversity values and legacies, including paleoecology and long-term vegetation dynamics. The course provides students with fundamental historical methods and tools to understand forest and vegetation history as well as training in scientific reading and writing at an advanced level. The course is targeted for students who want to understand the history of the boreal forest and how natural and historical eras have influenced contemporary forest ecosystems and forestry practices. It gives a crucial background to forest ecosystem ecology and silviculture. It will give tools and knowledge to analyse and critically assess current information vital to decision-making in the forestry and public sectors. The course is offered as an independent course.