NIGK14007U Tree Biology and Arboriculture

Volume 2024/2025

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


This course is indispensable if you wish to work professionally with trees. It gives you an introduction to the fascinating world of tree biology, and enables you as tree manager to make wise decisions. Having completed this course, you will never look at trees in the same way again!

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:

Tree structure and function with focus on water balance

Plant production and establishment

Annual variation in trees and environmental impacts on trees

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 tree interactions with the surroundings over time provides a basis for practical management of old and young trees.

Responsibilities of tree managers in relation to global challenges including climate change, sustainability and safety issues will be discussed during the course. Although the course has focus on temperate trees, it also includes examples from other climate zones.

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. Designing and successfully establishing 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


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.

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.
Project work: Students will work on case studies based on aspects of the curriculum. These will be presented in class during the course.

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.

Peer assessment: Students will comment on case study presentations of other groups.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 30
  • Preparation
  • 120
  • Excursions
  • 20
  • Laboratory
  • 12
  • Project work
  • 16
  • Seminar
  • 8
  • Total
  • 206
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 30 minutes
Type of assessment details
Oral examination. The student will draw one of the case studies from the course as well as a question from of a list of exam questions presented to the students during the course. As both case studies and questions are known beforehand there will be no time for preparation at the exam.
Only certain aids allowed

Students may bring their own notes and reports to the exam.

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

Identical to ordinary exam.

Criteria for exam assesment

See learning outcome