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Designing a Farm Forest

Establishing and managing trees and forests for timber

The word silviculture comes from Silva, the Latin word for wood. It refers to the establishment and management of trees for wood production. The potential to manipulate tree and forest growth so as to enhance their value or the benefits they provides makes silviculture the most powerful tool of the farm forester. For example, as a result of careful pruning a tree that might otherwise only be of value for firewood can be turned into high value veneer or sawlog. Alternatively, a regrowth native forest dominated by just one tree species could be thinned to promote regeneration thereby enhancing its biodiversity.

A silvicultural regime is a series of management interventions imposed on trees or forests over time, from establishment through to harvest and regeneration. Initially, decisions must be made about initial spacing, layout and establishment methods. Later the owner must decide about the type and timing of thinning, pruning, fire, grazing and harvesting. Choosing to let nature take its course is also a silvicultural decision. However, not intervening in a forest’s growth pattern is rarely the most appropriate strategy for achieving farmers’ preferred outcomes.

Forest growth is largely determined by how the mix of plants in the forest respond to the soil and climate in which they are growing. Silvicultural design and intervention enables farmers to direct this growth in an attempt to maximize the economic, environmental or aesthetic value of the forest. There are six aspects of silviculture that forest growers need to consider:

• what to grow — the forest’s genetic composition
• preparing the site for a forest — modification of the physical environment
• spacing and thinning after establishment — managing the competition between trees.
• pruning — treatment of individual trees.
managing pests, weeds, diseases and fire — forest protection
• harvesting timber and other forest products — harvesting options and techniques.

Silvicultural examples for timber plantations

The following examples of different plantation silvicultural regimes illustrate the practical application of the six aspects of silviculture:

High volume production regimes: pulpwood, firewood and biomass
Sawlogs without pruning
Sawlogs with pruning
Managing individual trees for sawlogs

Native forest silviculture

Although based on the same principles, native forest silviculture is a special case in that there are often complicating factors such as government regulation, multiple age structure, and a greater number of tree and understorey species to consider.

Native forest silviculture

It is possible to balance timber production from native forests or plantations with other values. For example, land degradation control strategies, agricultural production methods and biodiversity principals can be integrated into a forest design where the emphasis is on producing high value timber products. Understorey native species can be grown between widely spaced pruned trees, enhancing environmental values. And small gap or selective logging that does not greatly jeopardise aesthetic or wildlife values may be a viable option in native forests—for example in rainforests—where the value of the extracted timber is high.

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