NIGK14007U  Tree Biology and Arboriculture

Volume 2017/2018

MSc Programme in Landscape Architecture
MSc Programme in Forest and Nature Management
MSc Programme in Agriculture


This course gives you an introduction to the fascinating world of tree biology, and enables you as tree manager to make science-based decisions.

Woody plants dominate most vegetation on Earth, and provide microclimate, habitats, and resources for a profusion of other life forms, including humans. Direct tree products include timber, fiber, biomass, fruit, and secondary substances with innumerable economical uses.

Irrespective of the purpose for growing trees, successful establishment, good growth and health, and high stress tolerance are important. The course aims at improving the quality and economy of tree growing by providing an understanding of tree biology in relation to natural environments and cultivation. The course is intended for future tree managers in forests and plantations, parks and urban forests, woody plant producers and biologists with particular interest in woody plants.

The main objective of the course is to provide a biological understanding of the tree as a living system, and on how management affects trees. The course comprises four modules:

  1. Tree structure and function with focus on water balance
  2. Annual variation in trees and environmental impacts on trees
  3. Plant production and establishment
  4. Management, stability and old age

The course spans disciplines of plant anatomy, physiology, biophysics, ecophysiology  and ecology, all in relation to trees: growth patterns and architecture, adaptation to seasonal change and to stress factors, root system structure and function, challenges of a large plant body, ageing and rejuvenation, and effects of competition.

The course includes practical issues such as nursery plant production, plantings, thinning, pruning, stability, and management related to water balance and environmental stresses. Comprehensive knowledge about autecological and ecophysiological tree biology will provide a basis for practical management of old and young trees.

Responsibilities of tree managers in relation to global challenges, sustainability and safety issues will be discussed during the course.

Learning Outcome

At the end of the course, the student should be able to:

1. Knowledge

Describe central features of trees’ biology, including a) basic anatomy and architecture, b) carbohydrate, water and nutrient cycling, c) annual variation in life functions and d) life stages of the tree.

2. Skills

Apply techniques and theory from the course to efficiently manage trees with respect to establishment, shape, stability and safety in urban and rural environments, including

a. Assessment of growth and growth patterns
b. Evaluation of nursery stock quality and propagation methods
c. Design and successful establishment of stands and solitary plantings
d. Detection of signs of ageing and poor health in trees and
e. On this basis make informed decisions and propose actions in relation to tree management

3. Competencies

a. Collect and summarize relevant knowledge to solve stated problems related to management of trees
b. Predict how trees will perform in different environments (urban and rural, open/forested) and how they will be affected by changes in their environments, including drought, water logging, frost, and climatic change
c. Critically review other students’ work and (self)reflect on good learning.


Please see Absalon.

There are no prerequisites for attending the course other than an interest in tree biology. However, we recommend related courses in silviculture, tree pathology, wood technology, and agroforestry either in preparation or succession of this course.
Project work: During the course students will write four synopses based on four themes covering broad aspects of the curriculum. Results from laboratory exercises, observations from excursions, and information from lectures may be included in synopses. A synopsis will be presented as part of the exam.

Lectures: Interactive lectures by use of dialogue-based and problem-oriented teaching, small discussion and assignment groups.

Laboratory exercises: Learning of practical tools to analyze tree structure, quality and growth.

Field exercises and excursions: Visits may include forests, parks, urban street trees, nurseries etc.

Self-assessments: Questionnaires and tests on selected subjects to provide feedback to students and teachers on understanding of central concepts.

Peer assessment: Each group/student will comment on another groups’/student’s synopsis after submission. Based on the feedback a revised synopsis may be submitted.
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 30 minutes
The examination will be based on the topics of synopses.
Exam registration requirements

Requirements for attending the exam:

Three out of four synopses and related questions must be submitted.

Only certain aids allowed

It is allowed to bring own synopses to the exam

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners

Indentical to ordinary exam.

Requirements for attending the re-exam:

Three out of fours synopses and related questions must be submitted two weeks before the re-exam.

Criteria for exam assesment

See learning outcome

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 32
  • Practical exercises
  • 18
  • Preparation
  • 70
  • Project work
  • 56
  • Excursions
  • 30
  • Total
  • 206