Unit 5 - Forest Research: Current Applications

Lesson 2: Silviculture

Silvicuture is all about growing forests. A silviculture system, therefore, addresses early planning, harvesting, replanting, and tending the new forest. When choosing a silvicultural system, forest managers must consider many factors such as tree species, tree age, soil type, and local ecology. Forest managers must also assess any potential impact on wildlife habitat, water quality and scenery.

The most common type of silvicultural system used in the boreal forest is clear-cutting. In a traditional clear-cut, all the commercially valuable trees are removed from a given area at the same time. This allows full sunlight to reach the forest floor. This is important to the regrowth of the forest because many boreal species cannot regenerate well without full sunlight.

In the past, clear-cuts in the boreal forest have tended to be large and geometrically shaped. However, natural wildfire does not remove trees in perfect squares, strips, and rectangles. Rather, it tends to leave patches of trees behind. Recent research has shown that these areas left behind provide important habitat for wildlife. Hence, patterning timber harvest after natural wildfire appears to better preserve species diversity.

Image Source: Pixabay


                    Block shapes mimic natural disturbances such as forest fires.

                    Image courtesy of Millar Western.


Millar Western Forest Products is an Alberta forest company that produces high quality lumber and pulp for builders and papermakers around the world.

In response to these research findings, Millar Western has adapted its harvesting patterns to mimic the effects of a natural wildfire. In other words, it is moving away from large geometric clear-cuts and instead harvests areas of variable sizes and shapes.

Also, areas of standing timber, downed woody debris, and snags are left to provide wildlife habitat.