Our working definition of wood culture is: the stewardship of woodland and the use of forest produce for a sustainable future.
By stewardship we mean the responsible use (including conservation) of natural resources in a way that takes full and balanced account of the interests of society, future generations, and other species, as well as of private needs, and accepts significant answerability to society <sup>1</sup>.
Stewardship originally related to serving people; think of stewards on an ocean liner. Ecologist Aldo Leopold (1887-1948) first developed the concept of a land ethic “dealing with man’s relation to land and to the animals and plants which grow upon it”. The term is used widely now in the land sector but is often poorly defined, with confusion between practical and ethical elements. The term is used proactively by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in labelling products derived from well-managed forests, and to help prevent forest destruction, increase biodiversity and people involvement.
By forest produce we mean any product of a forest. This may include both timber products and non-timber forest products (sometimes referred to as NTFPs). Timber products include wood/timber/lumber, paper, pulp, biomass and firewood. Non-timber forest products include fungi, medicinal herbs, edible fruits and nuts, floristry, Christmas trees and many other natural products.
Modern forestry embraces the term sustainable forest management: “the stewardship and use of forests and forest lands in a way, and at a rate, that maintains their biodiversity, productivity, regeneration capacity, vitality and their potential to fulfil, now and in the future, relevant ecological, economic and social functions, at local, national, and global levels, and that does not cause damage to other ecosystems” 2
Finally the work of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) and their working party for wood culture provides an additional definition of the term and its research areas:
“Wood Culture is an interdisciplinary science area which provides a better understanding of the use and social aspects of wood from a cultural perspective. Research in Wood Culture improves people’s relationship with nature and opens new ways to understand wood from an economic, environmental, and social value perspective.”
Research areas emphasised by the IUFRO Wood Culture Working Party: