Forestry Scientist or Silviculturist

Foresters plan and manage the growing, protection and harvesting of trees and help to manage their utilisation.

They can choose to enter one of the following areas of activity in forestry:

Management: The majority of foresters are placed at forests or plantations where they initially serve as assistants and later as managers. Their duties include raising of seedlings in a nursery and planting of trees. They also coordinate and assist with the pruning, thinning and felling of trees, the sawing of felled trees into logs and their loading. They burn firebreaks and protect the forests against fire and damage. They may have to maintain roads, erect buildings and maintain telephone lines.

Conservation: Conservation foresters are responsible for conserving the fauna and flora, as well as the soil and water resources. They also manage and plan recreational activities like hiking and picnicking in forest areas.

Research: Research foresters conduct research to ensure the preservation of trees and specialises in growth modelling, forest genetics, conservation and ecology.

Extension foresters advise farmers and educate the public about the importance of trees.

Areas of specialisation:

Silviculture involves tree breeding, forest tree seed, nursery practice, establishment and tending, forest nutrition and management of ectomycorrhizal fungi.

Forest Soil Science involves soil classification, soil manipulation and site evaluation.

Forestry Finance includes: project selection, land and plantation valuation, optimal financial rotations and inflation economics. Other areas of specialisation include growth and yield science, forest biometrics and the modelling of plantation development.

Forest Engineering is concerned with the environmental, social, physical and economic impacts of harvesting. This includes the management of the total supply chain from felling to mill delivery. The effect of harvesting methods and systems are analysed with regard to the impact on wood procurement cost and wood and fibre quality as well as ergonomics. Other factors are access development, forest road construction and network management.

Foresters work mostly out of doors and are sometimes subject to considerable stress, especially during fast-changing climatic conditions and due to the steep and mountainous nature of most state forests.


  • forestry branch of the Department of Environment Affairs

  • Institute for Commercial Forestry Research

  • city councils

  • timber growing organisations

  • sawmills and timber preservation organisations

  • private forestry companies

  • such organisations as: SABS, SAPPI, Mondi Paper, Nampak Paper Ltd and Carlton Paper Corporation

Where to Study

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