A review of the literature pertaining to the forest ecology of the Alberta Oil Sands Environmental Research Program (AOSERP) study area was completed. Because of the complex nature of the vegetation pattern, the dynamic interactions of overstory species, and the relation of understory species to the nature and type of the canopy, the stands are discussed on the basis of relatively pure overstory species dominance. Dominant species examined were: aspen, jack pine, balsam poplar, paper birch, white spruce, black spruce, tamarack and balsam fir. The ecological factors discussed for each of these and 12 other understory species include soil and moisture requirements, reproduction, establishment, growth, successional roles, sensitivity to pollutants, and the nature of associated species. Fire is the major disturbance factor of the boreal forest. Aspects of fire discussed are: the nature, causes, incidence and extent of fire; its influence on soil heat balance, soil pH, and nutrient availability; and the general effect on the vegetation mosaic. General dynamics of vegetation are discussed and summarized for muskegs and related wetlands, river and lake shores, uplands, lowlands and the understory. The literature relating to North American concepts of communities, climax and succession is summarized to clarify usage of these terms and to illustrate the diversity of views that exist. Five approaches to studying and classifying vegetation are discussed: (1) physiognomic classification; (2) the ordination (continuum) view of vegetation; (3) floristic classification; (4) the North American approach based on physiognomy and dominance, and (5) biophysical land classification. For each approach, a general description of its characteristics, data requirements, advantages, disadvantages and applications are discussed. The report concludes with a discussion of data gaps and recommends studies needed to fulfill AOSERP objectives.