Sustainable Forest Management

Only 11 per cent of our land area is forest. In fact there should be much more, because forests contribute to natural value, CO2-sequestration, water regulation, microclimate and the production of the renewable raw material wood. But our forest is being threatened by the impact of climate change: storms, fires, floods and heat. The Sustainable Forest Management research group ensures that the forest can deal with these events and continue to fulfil its important roles. 

Why this research group? 

  • The research group conducts research into the conservation and restoration of forests, and the optimisation of their ecosystem services. 

  • This research fits seamlessly with the Forest and Nature Management study programme, with which we work closely. 

  • We work in teams with the students and partners from the professional field. Together, we address current research questions relating to forest ecology, forest management and the production of the renewable raw material wood. For example, which species of tree should we plant to make our forests more resilient to climate extremes? 

  • We also work with other colleges, institutes of secondary vocational education and universities in the Netherlands, Europe and in tropical countries. Because forests are a hot topic everywhere. 

  • Our research contributes to the transition to an ecologically and economically valuable habitat, in which the forest plays a vital role. 

  • We inspire students to continue our work, because forest management is a long-term story. 

Mission and vision 

The mission of the Sustainable Forest Management research group is to put the forest, as well as more forest, on the map. We do this alongside other educational and research institutions and partners in the professional field. We want to motivate and prepare our students for socially important and challenging positions as forest managers and consultants. 

Research lines 

The group’s research revolves around how to make our forest more resilient to climate change, while preserving various ecosystem functions. To achieve this, we work with several lines of research. 

  1. Revitalise: By planting deciduous species, we revitalise conifer monocultures. Their litter will improve soil quality and thus boost water retention and biodiversity. 
  2. Experiment: We experiment with native and exotic tree species, which may be more resistant to drought. 
  3. Monitor I: We monitor young plantings and forest development, learning which tree species can and cannot survive in a changing climate, and how forest managers can respond. 
  4. Monitor II: Through annual tree-ring surveys, we monitor the long-term growth activity of trees. And tree sensors enable us to track the impact of drought on tree growth. We can thus quantify how extreme weather conditions affect forest productivity and vitality. 
  5. Produce: Wood - as a renewable building material - is a good substitute for concrete and steel (materials with a negative ecological footprint). We therefore promote the sustainable production of wood. Also in forests in the Netherlands, if possible. For example, we explore opportunities to produce fast-growing deciduous tree species for applications in construction


Since its launch in 2023, the research group has been a coordinator and partner in projects relating to forest restoration and forest management. 

Current projects 

  • Vital and Versatile Forest: In Vital Forest, we look for management measures to increase the diversity and thus resilience of the Dutch forest. The affiliated project Versatile Forest supports forest managers in their choice of appropriate management measures. 
  • Wood it be possible: Together with Wageningen University & Research (WUR), we identify what obstacles exist to the application of sustainable wood in construction. In doing so, we scrutinise the entire chain - from forest to wood use. 
  • EUROSILVICS: In this project, we are developing a European educational platform on forest ecology and forest management. WUR coordinates, while the Sustainable Forest Management research group is an associate partner. 
  • COMBINED: How do climate change and biodiversity interact? And what measures can we take to create resilient forests and landscapes? A broad consortium is looking into this. 

We are also focusing on tropical forests, such as making palm oil plantations in Asia more sustainable, and reforestation in Africa. The details? Check the projects of the Oil Palm and Tropical Forests research group of associate lecturer Peter van der Meer. 


Research from the Sustainable Forest Management research group results in various publications: peer-reviewed and professional journal articles, research reports, opinion pieces and podcasts. This is how we make research visible to fellow scientists, but also to the general public. There is a lot of interest, because forests and trees are 'hot'. 

Key publications 

  • Podcast Trees about forest (Edition 3, 2023): How do trees in Dutch forests respond to climate extremes like the 2018 drought? And do they recover from that? The research group is exploring this, and lecturer Ute Sass-Klaassen talks about it in the podcast. The role of the research group in creating resilient forests is also addressed. 

  • Scientific article on annual tree-ring research (2023): Can forest productivity be predicted by models? To this end, annual tree-ring researchers from across Europe (including Ute Sass-Klaassen) link annual ring data, climate data and remote sensing data. An important study in times of climate change. Because when the photosynthetic capacity of the canopy surface changes, it affects the productivity and therefore the CO2 sequestration and carbon storage of the forest. 

All the research group’s publications are available on Greeni, the online library for the green universities of applied sciences. 

About the lecturer 

Lecturer Ute Sass-Klaassen studied Tree Biology and Wood Science in Hamburg, Germany. Her doctoral research in the 1990s focused on the sensitivity of beech trees to drought. In her subsequent career, annual tree-ring research has been the common thread. First as a lecturer and researcher at the Tree-Ring Lab at the University of Arizona. She then worked for a foundation in archaeology and building history, where she dated wooden structures and artefacts. 

Since 2003, Ute has been an associate professor in the Chair Group of Forest Ecology and Forest Management at Wageningen University & Research. She coordinated courses and supervised many undergraduate, graduate, internship and PhD students. More than 100 publications in her name came about through collaboration in (inter)national networks. She also chaired the COST campaign STREeSS and was president of the Association for Tree-Ring Research. In 2020, she was appointed honorary professor at the Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development. Three years later, Ute started as a lecturer in Sustainable Forest Management at Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences. 

"In our new year tree-ring lab at the University of Applied Sciences in Velp, we look into important ecological issues. For example, we research the resistance of European tree species to drought, monitor tree vitality with sensors and are committed to the sustainable production of wood. We do this together with colleagues and students from the Forest and Nature Management degree programme and from WUR (where I still work one day a week), and with other educational institutions and parties from the professional field. My motivation? Building a strong and enthusiastic team, contributing to inspiring education and relevant practical research around Dutch and European forests and trees." 

Knowledge network 

While the research group is creating a knowledge network (with experienced and young researchers and advisers from the Forest and Nature Management degree programme, WUR, the Forestry Commission, Forest Groups and other parties from the professional field), we are already working with these knowledge partners: 

  • Peter van der Meer, associate lecturer and researcher at the the Oil Palm and Tropical Forests research group (HVHL) 
  • John Raggers, programme manager of the Forest and Nature Management degree programme and connector of education and research (HVHL) 
  • Linar Akhmetzyanov, lecturer and researcher at the Sustainable Forest Management research group, expert in tree biology and annual tree-ring research, and coordinator of research at the annual tree-ring lab (HVHL) 
  • Juriaan Zandvliet, lecturer-researcher in the Forest and Nature Management degree programme and expert in forest management, diseases and pests (HVHL) 
  • Jan den Ouden, expert in forest ecology and forest management and connector of university of applied sciences and university institutions (WUR) 
  • The team involved in the Tree Hotspot, forest and nature of the MBO study programme in Forest and Nature Management Yuverta) 
  • Jan Oldenburger, consultant and expert in forest management, inventory and forest and timber figures (Staatsbosbeheer) 

The Sustainable Forest Management research group is closely linked to HVHL's Forest and Nature Management degree programme. This enables teacher-researchers to be directly involved in research projects. And students complete their graduation assignments with the research group, do internships with our professional field partners or participate in project work. 

Want to know more? 

Want to know more about the Sustainable Forest Management research group? Interested in the possibilities of working together? Or perhaps an internship or graduation project? Call or email: 

Dr Ute Sass-Klaassen
Lecturer in Sustainable Forest Management 

E-mail: [email protected]
Telephone: +31 6 23 02 00 00
♦ LinkedIn 

Dr Peter van der Meer
Associate lecturer on Oil Palm and Tropical Forests 

E-mail: [email protected]
Telephone: +31 6 51 31 26 65
♦ LinkedIn