Understanding what Silviculture is

Silviculture blends the ecology of the forest with economy; finding ways to sustain both. It includes the thinning of the forest to provide areas for other vegetation that wildlife uses. Silviculturists want to see the forests continue for millennia, and they use methods to accomplish that like planting seeds and seedlings in areas where clear-cutting has occurred. These include many sustainable forestry methods.

Often, issues come up that cause friction between lumber companies and foresters. Both parties use the forest but in different ways. The silviculturist finds methods and techniques that keep both parties happy. Thinning, pruning, and regeneration are only some of the methods.

These managers work to restore forests that may have burned, suffered insect infestations, or harvesters have clear-cut. Regeneration methods include single-tree selection where a silviculturist plants a specific variety of trees. Group selection is when a forester plants a variety of tree species with a certain diameter. Clearcutting is when foresters or lumber companies remove whole large tracks of land indiscriminately. Clearcutting creates as many problems as it solves. Seed tree is a method by which the forester leaves between two and twelve trees standing in a group while harvesters remove the other trees. The shelterwood removes trees that block sunlight, water and temperature.  Coppicing uses the natural sprout of hardwoods or fuel woods. When anyone cuts these trees, they automatically sprout. These trees can grow to be very large; coast redwood is an example of this. Variable retention is a newer method in which silviculturists retain all parts of the tree.

Thinning the forest is another important method. Areas that foresters thin are places where groups of trees will not grow. In doing so, space is provided so trees can grow bigger and less dense. At times, thinning makes for a healthier forest. Lumber companies can use the thinned trees.

Pruning includes removing the growth that puts knots in the wood. Those pruned branches are on the lower parts of the tree trunk. This practice increases the value of this wood.

One of the issues facing silviculturists is long growing season for the forests. Because temperatures around the US are warmer than in past years, forests are not dormant for as long. They grow bigger. Streams dry up sooner. Insects and diseases increase. Unfortunately, the workshop brought managers together with many questions but few solutions.

Silviculture involves everything that has to do with the growing forest. It all revolves around the management of forests and how it relates to landowners and society. The most recent silviculture workshop (2009) included topics related to climate change, how forests affect carbon dioxide, and the most recent computer models to help in managing the forests.