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Silviculture is the practice of controlling the establishment, growth, composition, health, and quality of forests to meet diverse needs and values. The name comes from the Latin silvi- (forest) + culture (as in growing). The study of forests and woods is termed silvology. Silviculture also focuses on making sure that the treatment(s) of forest stands are used to preserve and to better their productivity.[1]

To some the distinction between forestry and silviculture is that silviculture is applied at the stand level and forestry is broader. For example John D. Matthews says "complete regimes for regenerating, tending, and harvesting forests" are called "silvicultural systems".[2]

So active management is required for silviculture, whereas forestry can be natural, conserved land without a stand level treatment being applied. A common taxonomy divides silviculture into regenerating, tending and harvesting techniques.


Forest regeneration is the act of renewing tree cover by establishing young trees, generally promptly after the previous stand or forest has been removed. The method, species, and density are chosen to meet the goal of the landowner.

It may be divided into natural regeneration:

"Human-assisted natural regeneration" means establishment of a forest age class from natural seeding or sprouting in an area after harvesting in that area through selection cutting, shelter (or seed-tree) harvest, soil preparation, or restricting the size of a clear-cut stand to secure natural regeneration from the surrounding trees.

The process of natural regeneration involves the renewal of forests by means of self-sown seeds, root suckers, or coppicing. In natural forests, conifers rely almost entirely on regeneration through seed. Most of the broadleaves, however, are able to regenerate by the means of emergence of shoots from stumps (coppice) and broken stems.[3]

and artificial regeneration.

Tree provenance is important in artificial regeneration. Good provenance takes into account suitable tree genetics and a good environmental fit for planted / seeded trees in a forest stand. The wrong genotype can lead to failed regeneration, or poor trees that are prone to pathogens and undesired outcomes.

Artificial regeneration has been a more common method involving planting because it is more dependable than natural regeneration. Planting can involve using seedlings (from a nursery), (un)rooted cuttings, or seeds.[4]

Whichever method is chosen it can be assisted by tending techniques also known as intermediate stand treatments.


Enrichment planting[edit]

A strategy for enhancing natural forests' economic value is to increase their concentration of economically important, indigenous tree species by planting seeds or seedlings for future harvest, which can be accomplished with enrichment planting (EP).[5] This means increasing the planting density (i.e., the numbers of plants per hectare) in an already growing forest stand."[6]

Release treatments[edit]

  • Weeding: A process of getting rid of samplings' or seedlings' competition by mowing, application of herbicide, or other method of removal from the surroundings.[7]
  • Cleaning: Release of select saplings from competition by overtopping trees of a comparable age. The treatment favors trees of a desired species and stem quality.
  • Liberation Cutting: A treatment that releases tree seedling or saplings by removing older overtopping trees.


Thinning is an operation that artificially reduces the number of trees growing in a stand with the aim of hastening the development of the remainder.[8] The goal of thinning is to control the amount and distribution of available growing space. By altering stand density, foresters can influence the growth, quality, and health of residual trees. It also provides an opportunity to capture mortality and cull the commercially less desirable, usually smaller and malformed, trees. Unlike regeneration treatments, thinnings are not intended to establish a new tree crop or create permanent canopy openings.

Common thinning methods:[9]

  • Low Thinning: method of what they do is what they predicted to happen naturally. It emphasizes crown class.
  • Crown Thinning (thinning from above or French method)
  • Selection Thinning (thinning of dominants or Borggreve method). It focuses primarily on quality.
  • Mechanical Thinning (row thinning or geometric thinning)
  • Free Thinning
  • Loose Thinning

Previous studies have demonstrated that repeated thinnings over the course of a forest rotation increase carbon stores relative to stands that are clear-cut on short rotations and that the carbon benefits differ according to thinning method (e.g., thinning from above versus below).[10]

Ecological thinning is where the primary aim of forest thinning is to increase growth of selected trees, favoring development of wildlife habitat (such as hollows) rather than focusing on increased timber yields. Ecological thinning can be considered a new approach to landscape restoration for some types of eucalypt forests and woodlands in Australia.


Pruning, as a silvicultural practice, refers to the removal of the lower branches of the young trees (also giving the shape to the tree) so clear knot-free wood can subsequently grow over the branch stubs. Clear knot-free lumber has a higher value. Pruning has been extensively carried out in the Radiata pine plantations of New Zealand and Chile, however the development of Finger joint technology in the production of lumber and mouldings has led to many forestry companies reconsidering their pruning practices. "Brashing" is an alternative name for the same process.[11] Pruning can be done to all trees, or more cost effectively to a limited number of trees. There are two types of pruning: natural or self-pruning and artificial pruning. Most cases of self-pruning happen when branches do not receive enough sunlight and die. Wind can also take part in natural pruning which can break branches.[12] Artificial pruning is where people are paid to come and cut the branches. Or it can be natural, where trees are planted close enough that the effect is to cause self-pruning of low branches as energy is put into growing up for light reasons and not branchiness.

Forest care[edit]

This may be reducing browsing. It can also be techniques for dealing with forest pathogens.

Common methods[edit]

Silvicultural regeneration methods combine both the harvest of the timber on the stand and re-establishment of the forest. The proper practice of sustainable forestry[13] should mitigate the potential negative impacts, but all harvest methods will have some impacts on the land and residual stand.[14] The practice of sustainable forestry limits the impacts such that the values of the forest are maintained in perpetuity. Silvicultural prescriptions are specific solutions to a specific set of circumstances and management objectives.[15] Following are some common methods:

  • Single-tree selection - The single-tree selection method is an uneven-aged regeneration method most suitable when shade tolerant species regeneration is desired. It is typical for older and diseased trees to be removed, thus thinning the stand and allowing for younger, healthy trees to grow. Single-tree selection can be very difficult to implement in dense or sensitive stands and residual stand damage can occur. This method is also disturbs the canopy layer the least out of all other methods.[16]
  • Group selection - The group selection method is an uneven-aged regeneration method that can be used when mid-tolerant species regeneration is desired. The group selection method can still result in residual stand damage in dense stands, however directional falling can minimize the damage. Additionally, foresters can select across the range of diameter classes in the stand and maintain a mosaic of age and diameter classes.
  • Clearcutting - An even-aged regeneration method that can employ either natural or artificial regeneration. It involves the complete removal of the forest stand at one time.[17] Clearcutting can be biologically appropriate with species that typically regenerate from stand replacing fires or other major disturbances, such as Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta). Alternatively, clearcutting can change the dominating species on a stand with the introduction of non-native and invasive species as was shown at the Blodgett Experimental Forest near Georgetown California. Additionally, clearcutting can prolong slash decomposition, expose soil to erosion, impact visual appeal of a landscape and remove essential wildlife habitat. It is particularly useful in regeneration of tree species such as Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) which is shade intolerant.[verification needed]. In addition, the general public's distaste for even-aged silviculture, particularly clearcutting, is likely to result in a greater role for uneven-aged management on public lands as well.[18] Across Europe, and in parts of North America, even-aged, production-orientated and intensively managed plantations are beginning to be regarded in the same way as old industrial complexes: something to abolish or convert to something else.[19]
  • Patch cut
  • Seed-tree - An even-aged regeneration method that retains widely spaced residual trees in order to provide uniform seed dispersal across a harvested area. In the seed-tree method, 2-12 seed trees per acre (5-30/ha) are left standing in order to regenerate the forest. They will be retained until regeneration has become established at which point they may be removed. It may not always be economically viable or biologically desirable to re-enter the stand to remove the remaining seed trees. Seed-tree cuts can also be viewed as a clearcut with natural regeneration and can also have all of the problems associated with clearcutting. This method is most suited for light-seeded species and those not prone to windthrow.
  • Shelterwood - In general terms, the shelterwood system is a series of partial cuts that removes the trees of an existing stand over several years and eventually culminates in a final cut that creates a new even-aged stand.[20] Its an even-aged regeneration method that removes trees in a series of three harvests: 1) Preparatory cut; 2) Establishment cut; and 3) Removal cut. The success of practising a shelterwood system is closely related to: 1. the length of the regeneration period, i.e. the time from the shelterwood cutting to the date when a new generation of trees has been established; 2.the quality of the new tree stand with respect to stand density and growth; and 3.the value increment of the shelter trees. Information on the establishment, survival and growth of seedlings influenced by the cover of shelter trees, as well as on the growth of these trees, is needed as a basis for modelling the economic return of practising a shelterwood system.[21] The method's objective is to establish new forest reproduction under the shelter of the retained trees. Unlike the seed-tree method, residual trees alter understory environmental conditions (i.e. sunlight, temperature, and moisture) that influence tree seedling growth. This method can also find a middle ground with the light ambiance by having less light accessible to competitors while still being able to provide enough light for tree regeneration.[22] Hence, shelterwood methods are most often chosen for site types characterized by extreme conditions, in order to create a new tree generation within a reasonable time period. These conditions are valid foremost on level ground sites which are either dry and poor or moist and fertile.[23]
  • Coppicing - A regeneration method which depends on the sprouting of cut trees. Most hardwoods, the coast redwood, and certain pines naturally sprout from stumps and can be managed through coppicing. Coppicing is generally used to produce fuelwood, pulpwood, and other products dependent on small trees. A close relative of coppicing is pollarding.[24] Three systems of coppice woodland management are generally recognized: simple coppice, coppice with standards, and the coppice selection system.[25]
    • In Compound coppicing or coppicing with standards, some of the highest quality trees are retained for multiple rotations in order to obtain larger trees for different purposes.
  • Variable retention - A harvesting and regeneration method which is a relatively new silvicultural system that retains forest structural elements (stumps, logs, snags, trees, understory spieces and undisturbed layers of forest floor) for at least one rotation in order to preserve environmental values associated with structurally complex forests.[26]

"Uneven-aged and even-aged methods differ in the scale and intensity of disturbance. Uneven-aged methods maintain a mix of tree sizes or ages within a habitat patch by periodically harvesting individual or small groups of trees, Even-aged methods harvest most or all of the overstory and create a fairly uniform habitat patch dominated by trees of the same age".[27] Even-aged management systems have been the prime methods to use when studying the effects on birds.[28]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Hawley, R.C. and D.M. Smith. The Practice of Silviculture. 6th edition. New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc., 1954. Print.
  2. ^ John D. Matthews, Silvicultural Systems. Oxford Science Publications. 1991, ISBN 9780198546702
  3. ^ Template:11 Huss,J. 2004;
  4. ^ Tappeiner, J.C., D.A. Maguire, and T.B. Harrington. Silviculture and Ecology of Western U.S. Forests. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2007. Print.
  5. ^ Template:5 Keefe,K. 2012;
  6. ^ 'Fact Sheet 4.12. Forest Regeneration', IPCC Special Report on Land Use, Land-Use Change And Forestry
  7. ^ Daniel, Theodore, John Helms, and Frederick Baker. Principles of Silviculture. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1979. Print.
  8. ^ Template:6 Savill,P.S. 2004;
  9. ^ Baker, Frederick. Theory and Practice of Silviculture. First Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1934. Print.
  10. ^ Template:7 D’Amato,Anthony W. 2011;
  11. ^ The Dictionary of Forestry, The Society of American Foresters
  12. ^ Smith, D.M., B.C. Larson, M.J. Kelty, and P.M.S. Ashton. The Practice of Silviculture: Applied Forest Ecology. 9th edition. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1997. Print.
  13. ^ Oregon State University Extension Service
  15. ^ Template:8 Bauhus,Jürgen 2009;
  16. ^ Conservation Approaches for Woody, Early Successional Communities in the Eastern United States. Frank R. Thompson, III and Richard M. DeGraaf Wildlife Society Bulletin , Vol. 29, No. 2 (Summer, 2001), pp. 483-494. Web. 4 October 2013.
  17. ^ Effects of Group-Selection Opening Size on Breeding Bird Habitat Use in a Bottomland Forest. Christopher E. Moorman and David C. Guynn Jr. Ecological Applications , Vol. 11, No. 6 (Dec., 2001), pp. 1680-1691. Web. 4 Oct. 2013.
  18. ^ Template:9 Schulte,Benedict J. 1998;
  19. ^ Template:12 Gamborg,Christian 2003;
  20. ^ Template:3 Brose,Patrick H. 2008; 3 Brose,Patrick H. 2008;
  21. ^ Template:4 Holgén,Per 2000; 4 Holgén,Per 2000;
  22. ^ Survival and Growth of Under-Planted Trees: A Meta-Analysis across Four Biomes. Alain Paquette, André Bouchard and Alain Cogliastro Ecological Applications , Vol. 16, No. 4 (Aug., 2006), pp. 1575-1589
  23. ^ Template:4 Holgén,Per 2000;
  24. ^ Smith, D.M., B.C. Larson, M.J. Kelty, P.M.S. Ashton (1997) The Practice of Silviculture: Applied Forest Ecology, John Wiley & Sons, p. 340-46
  25. ^ Template:10 Harmer,R. 2004;
  26. ^ Kohm, K. A, and Franklin, J. F., Creating a forestry for the 21st century: the science of ecosystem management. Island Press. 1997, ISBN 978-1-55963-399-4
  27. ^ The Role of Disturbance in the Ecology and Conservation of Birds Jeffrey D. Brawn, Scott K. Robinson and Frank R. Thompson III Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics , Vol. 32, (2001), pp. 251-276. Web. 4 October 2013.
  28. ^ Effects of Selection Cutting on Bird Communities in Contiguous Eastern Hardwood Forests . Andrew P. Jobes, Erica Nol and Dennis R. Voigt The Journal of Wildlife Management , Vol. 68, No. 1 (Jan., 2004), pp. 51-60. Web. 4 October 2013.


  • Daniel, T. W., J. A. Helms, and F. S. Baker 1979. Principles of Silviculture, 2nd Edition. McGraw-Hill, New York. 521 pp. ISBN 0-07-015297-7
  • Evans, J. 1984. Silviculture of Broadleaved Woodland. Forestry Commission Bulletin 62. HMSO. London. 232 pp. ISBN 0-11-710154-0
  • Hart, C. 1995. Alternative Silvicultural Systems to Clear Cutting in Britain: A Review. Forestry Commission Bulletin 115. HMSO. London. 93 pp. ISBN 0-11-710334-9
  • Nyland, R. D. 1996. Silviculture, Concepts and Applications. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. New York. 633 pp. ISBN 0-07-056999-1
  • Nyland, R. D. 2002 Silviculture: Concepts and Applications, 2nd Edition. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. New York. 704 pp. ISBN 0-07-366190-2
  • Savill, P., Evans, J., Auclair, D., Falck, J. 1997. Plantation Silviculture in Europe. Oxford University Press, Oxford. 297 pp. ISBN 0-19-854909-1
  • Smith, D. M. 1986. The Practice of Silviculture, 8th edition. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York. 527 pp. ISBN 0-471-80020-1
  • Smith, D. M., B. C. Larson, M. J. Kelty, P. M. S. Ashton. 1997. The Practice of Silviculture: Applied Forest Ecology, 9th edition. John Wiley & Sons, New York. 560 pp. ISBN 0-471-10941-X
  • Reid, R. (2006) 'Management of Acacia melanoxylon in Plantations' [1]
  • Reid, R. (2002) 'The Principles and Practice of Pruning' [2]

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