Ecologie forestière et phytosociologie

LBIRF2104  2019-2020  Louvain-la-Neuve

Ecologie forestière et phytosociologie
5.0 credits
37.5 h + 22.5 h


Precursory courses: Introductory course in silviculture (for part B), ecology, plant physiology, botanics, plant taxonomy, plant systematics (field surveys) and soil science.


Supplemental courses: Silviculture, forest mensuration, forest management and planning, wildlife ecology and management.

Main themes

- techniques of vegetation analysis: concepts and principles of plant sociology, methods of vegetation surveys and multivariate analyses of vegetation releves, influence of agro-forestry-pastoral ancestral practices on current vegetation;

- determinants of plant assemblages and vegetation dynamics, vegetation mapping;

- phytogeography, plant ecology and indicator value of species;

- plant demography, reproduction, dispersal;

- productivity and fluxes in forest ecosystems: energy, light, water, nutrients, carbon;

- site assessment: risks, constraints and potentialities;

- stability of forest ecosystems (case study): understanding of the issues, design of integrated protection strategies.


Learning Outcomes

M1.1, M1.2, M1.3, M1.4, M1.5, M2.1, M2.2, M2.3, M2.4, M2.5, M3.2;, M3.4, M3.5, M3.7, M3.8, M4.1, M4.2, M4.3, M4.7, M6.2, M6.4, M6.5, M6.6, M6.7, M6.8, M7.1.


At the end of this activity, the student is able to:

- identify the different plant species, realize vegetation surveys (Braun-Blanquet method or transect) and determine the forest type and origin in relation with soil and biogeography constraints;

- analyse vegetation surveys with adequate statistics, realize a synthetic table, defend and argument its choices and vegetation types;

- integrate vegetation type and history, sylvo-agro practices, biogeography and climate to propose habitat management;

- understand the basics of site assessment;

- use the range of tools available for site characterization (e.g. phytosociology, afforestation guides, ...) for proper management;

- understand the regulation of flows (energy, light, water, nutrients, carbon) in forest ecosystems by integrating theoretical and practical examples presented in this course, in order to derive (i) the impact of forests on the environment and (ii) appropriate management options;

- consider abiotic risks in forest management by controlling the underlying processes and integrating the concepts of forest multifunctionality, in order to minimize the impacts of these hazards on forests ecosystems with a long-term vision.

The contribution of this Teaching Unit to the development and command of the skills and learning outcomes of the programme(s) can be accessed at the end of this sheet, in the section entitled “Programmes/courses offering this Teaching Unit”.


A. Table of contents

1. Site assessment

- specificities of site assessment in forest ecosystems

- objectives of the assessment

- typology of current tools and approaches

- indicators of fertility

- examples of decision-support tools

2. Flow control in forest ecosystems

- light and energy

- water

- carbon

- nutrients

3. Risk management in forests: windstorms as an example

4. Phytosociology

- phytogeography and vegetation history at the global and local scales

- physiognomic approach to vegetation

- phytosociological approach and techniques of analysis, including multivariate statistical analyses

- vegetation dynamics; intrinsic and extrinsic influences, including traditional agro-forestry-pastoral practices; progressive and regressive series

- vegetation mapping

- field surveys (4 one-day excursions) and determination of forest types.



B. Additional informations

This course includes two modules that can be combined to form two partims:

- Module 1 (15h-22.5h): fundamentals of vegetation analysis and phytosociology - 7 2-hour sessions (theoretical courses and seminars on more applied themes); practical exercises in phytosociology - 4 one-day excursions (a last one is shared with the course 'Applied soil sciences' - BIRE2104), a lab (2 hours) devoted to statistical analysis of vegetation samples;

- Module 2 (22h): site assessment, biogeochemistry of forested ecosystems, tree ecophysiology - 11 2-hour sessions.

Part A (module 1) - Phytosociology ' is mandatory for students from the following masters: BIRF (all options), BIRE (5E option) and BOE (environmental management option);

Part B (module 2) - Site assessment and biogeochemical cycles - is a required course for the master BIRF; it can be taken as electives by students from masters BIRA, BIRE and BOE.

Teaching methods

Teaching team: Teachers and technician for lectures, for field excursions and labs.


Teaching methods:

- lectures including practical examples and active learning mini activities;

- seminars given by guest speakers (speakers from the socio-professional or scientific spheres);

- field excursions including practical learning of vegetation survey, determination of the flora and of the type of vegetation;

- multidisciplinary mini project;

- supervised statistical analysis of the vegetation surveys in the computer room;

- individual reading of a scientific paper and critical analysis in groups.


Miscellaneous : Modules 1 and 2 (15h + 22.5h) constitute a mandatory 4-credit course entitled 'Forest ecology and phytosociology, partim phytosociology' for students of option S5E (Land development) within the master in environmental bioengineering and students within the master in biology (BOE).

Evaluation methods


- Part A: Preparation and oral presentation of a phytosociological table, oral exam focused on problem solving, synthetic analysis of a problem;

- Part B: writing exam (short answers or answers based on a theoretical development)

Other information

This course can be given in English.

Online resources




- compulsory material for the course (power point slides, syllabus, list of species encountered during the field trips, documents) are made available to the students on Moodle; the program used for statistical analysis (PC-ORD) is available in the computer room.

- for more information, students may usefully consult the following references:

Barnes, B.V., Zak, D.R., Denton, S.R., Spurr, S.H., 1998. Forest ecology. 4th ed. John Wiley & Sons, New York, USA, 774 p.

Bazzaz, F.A. 1996. Plants in changing environments. Linking physiological, population, and community ecology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 320 p.

Chapin III, F.S., Matson, P.A., Mooney, H.A. 2002. Principles of terrestrial ecosystem ecology. Springer, New York, USA, 436 p.

Fisher, R.F., Binkley, D. 2000. Ecology and management of forest soils. 3rd ed. Wiley, New York, 489 p.

Jabiol, B., Lévy, G., Bonneau, M., Brêthes, A. 2009. Comprendre les sols pour mieux gérer les forêts. Contraintes et fragilités des sols, choix des essences, précautions sylvicoles, améliorations. AgroParis Tech ENGREF, Nancy, France, 624 p.

Kimmins, J.P. 2004. Forest ecology. A foundation for sustainable forest management and environmental ethics in forestry. 3rd edition. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, USA, 611 p. + annexes

Lambers, H., Chapin III, F.S., Pons, T.L. 2000. Plant physiological ecology. Corrected 2nd printing. Springer, New York, 540 p.

Larcher, W. 2003. Physiological plant ecology. Ecophysiology and stress physiology of functional groups. 4th ed. Springer, Berlin, 513 p.

Faculty or entity

Programmes / formations proposant cette unité d'enseignement (UE)

Program title
Master [120] in Forests and Natural Areas Engineering