Due to Covid-19, we have reduced personnel at the offices of the Sylva Foundation and our premises at the Sylva Wood Centre. Emails and phone messages are being checked but please allow a little longer than usual to receive a response.
Please do not arrange a formal visit without first checking with us. Members of the public are free to enjoy our network of permitted paths through the Future Forest as usual.

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wood culture

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.

forest produce

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:

  • The historical and contemporary use of wood in different regions or countries in the world
  • The development and culture of the use of wood products; including furniture, paper, housing components, lumber, veneer, plywood, oriented strand board, and sculptures, etc
  • The culture of wood in different societies as part of religion, literature, philosophy, and art
  • The promotion of the use and culture of wood in all societies and at all levels of education
  • The education and promotion of the positive aspects of wood, such as the beauty and strength of wood, the benefits of wood to ecology and the environment, and the historical and social aspects of wood


  1. Worrell, R. and Appleby, M. C. (2000) Stewardship of Natural Resources: Definition, Ethical and Practical Aspects. Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 12, 3, pp263-277. Doi: 10.1023/A:1009534214698
  2. (MCPFE 1993) Resolution H1 General Guidelines for the Sustainable Management of Forests in Europe. Article D. Second Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe. 16-17 June 1993, Helsinki/Finland. 500. www.foresteurope.org/docs/MC/MC_helsinki_resolutionH1.pdf