Silvicultural systems

Flickr photo by esagor. Click for original.
Flickr photo by esagor. Click for original.

Silviculture is the art and science of controlling the establishment, growth, composition, health, and quality of forests to meet diverse needs and values of landowners and society on a sustainable basis.

Many people think that clearcutting is the only way to harvest timber.  That’s not the case.  Although clearcutting is an efficient and effective system, it is by no means the optimal harvest system for every situation.  Among other things, the optimal silvicultural system depends on site characteristics, forest type, and landowner objectives.

Silvicultural systems can range from single-tree selection up to clearcutting. Any treatment (such as a thinning) designed to enhance growth, quality, vigor, and composition of the stand after establishment or regeneration and prior to final harvest.

Intermediate treatments such as woodland stand improvement can improve the stand’s vigor and value. Improving the quality of a stand through pruning, girdling or removing undesirable species, applying herbicide, or other treatments. TSI treatments are generally precommercial.

You can find a basic, straightforward overview of different silvicultural systems at the North Central Forest Management Guides site.

Eli 's work addresses Minnesota forest ecology & management. He's based in St Paul.

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  1. Are there places in Minnesota where clearcutting is currently happening and if so where and by whom?

    Is there any legislation about this??

    1. Hi Alis. Clearcutting is virtually the only way to regenerate many of Minnesota’s most important species, both ecologically and economically. Species like red (Norway) pine, the Minnesota state tree, do not grow well under shade–they need large openings in order to thrive. While these openings were once created relatively frequently by fire, effective fire suppression has dramatically changed how fire-dependent forest ecosystems work. Aspen also depends on large openings, and many wildlife species depend on aspen for cover, shelter, and food.

      Minnesota’s economy is heavily dependent on the wood products industry, which is the state’s fourth largest manufacturing industry, employing tens of thousands of people in relatively high-paying jobs. In addition to the ecological considerations, clearcutting allows for efficient production of wood products that we all use and depend on, directly or indirectly.

      While many Minnesota timber harvests are not clearcuts, clearcutting does occur on private, Tribal, County, State, and Federal lands. It’s a fairly common practice.

      A number of regulations affect timber harvest practices. These are generally designed to protect water quality, reduce erosion, and so on. Many of these regulations are binding. In addition, Minnesota has voluntary site-level forest management guidelines designed to promote implementation of best practices over and above required activities in order to ensure the protection of wildlife habitat, water quality, visual quality, and the like.

      Thanks for the question Alis! Feel free to reply if I can help further.