Modern forestry generally embraces a broad range of concerns, in what is known as multiple-use management, including the provision of timber, fuel wood, wildlife habitat, natural water quality management, recreation, landscape and community protection, employment, aesthetically appealing landscapes, biodiversity management, watershed management, erosion control, and preserving forests as 'sinks' for atmospheric carbon dioxide. A practitioner of forestry is known as a forester. Other terms are used a verderer and a silviculturalist being common ones. Silviculture is narrower than forestry, being concerned only with forest plants, but is often used synonymously with forestry.
Forestry is an important economic segment in various industrial countries. For example, in Germany, forests cover nearly a third of the land area, wood is the most important renewable resource, and forestry supports more than a million jobs and about €181 billion of value to the German economy each year.
The preindustrial age has been dubbed by Werner Sombart and others as the 'wooden age', as timber and firewood were the basic resources for energy, construction and housing. The development of modern forestry is closely connected with the rise of capitalism, economy as a science and varying notions of land use and property.
Roman Latifundiae, large agricultural estates, were quite successful in maintaining the large supply of wood that was necessary for the Roman Empire. Large deforestations came with respectively after the decline of the Romans. However already in the 5th century, monks in the then Byzantine Romagna on the Adriatic coast, were able to establish stone pine plantations to provide fuelwood and food. This was the beginning of the massive forest mentioned by Dante Alighieri in his 1308 poem Divine Comedy.