Silviculture is the applied science of forest ecology and management. The foundation is based on silvics, which is concerned with the development and growth of trees and forests. The practice of silviculture is rooted in a broad understanding of forested ecosystems, which includes biometeorology, hydrology, geology and soils, and ecology. Foresters must also understand the specific natural factors that act upon individual stands. This knowledge is then applied to assess, maintain, and manage forestland for a specific value or product, whether that is for timber, aesthetics, habitat, watershed management, or another objective. The main purpose of silviculture is one where “natural processes are deliberately guided to produce forests that are more useful than those of nature, and to do so in less time” (Smith, Larson, Kelty, & Ashton, 1996).
The practice of silviculture has been around for centuries, and it is considered one of the oldest conscious applications of ecology. Through various treatments, the forester can control species composition, stand structure and stand dynamics, stand density, and harvesting and rotation cycles. In general, the forester is concerned with two broad categories of treatments: (1) methods of reproduction and establishment, and (2) methods of post-establishment tending or cuttings. During regeneration and establishment, the forester’s goal is to favor the renewal of certain species and through creating a favorable environment for that regeneration to occur. After establishment and regeneration has taken hold, the forester’s focus turns to improving the condition of the existing stand through tending operations and cuttings. The treatments that are applied at any stage must match the natural environmental factors of the particular region, as well as reflect the social value or purpose of the particular stand.
Explore the pages below to read more about silvicultural practices in each region:
Smith, D. M., Larson, B. C., Kelty, M. J., & Ashton, P. M. S. (1996). The Practice of Silviculture (9th ed.). Wiley.