NPC silviculture strategies for forest stand prescriptions

group of foreseters standing in a forest clearing

The Division of Forestry has developed silviculture strategies to inform sustainable forest management in Minnesota. These documents include information on the following key elements for each native plant community (NPC) class:

  • Vegetation, structure, and composition
  • Landscape setting and soils
  • Tree suitability
  • Tree response to climate change
  • Tree establishment and recruitment
  • Stand dynamics and growth stages
  • 2-page silvicultural strategies for each major natural disturbance agent
What is a Native Plant Community

A group of native plants that interact with each other and with their environment. NPCs are classified and described by hydrology, landforms, soils, and natural disturbance regime (e.g., wildfire, windstorm, insect and disease outbreak). For more information how classification hierarchy is determined visit the NPC Community Classification webpage. The NPC class (e.g., FDn32) is the classification level used by Division of Forestry in operational forest management. NPC type and subtypes are used for refined management of rare NPCs and are not described for all NPCs.

chart showing how to understand class

Why use native plant communities in silviculture?

The rationale for applying NPC data and silviculture strategies to stand level prescriptions includes the following:

  1. Ecological classification provides context to tree species productivity.
    The reason we use native plant community (NPC) information is that potential forest composition and tree behavior can differ significantly across moisture/nutrient gradients and floristic regions. Silvicultural opportunities that place desired tree species at a competitive advantage will differ depending on the inherent environment of a particular NPC. This is a departure from the traditional species-organized silviculture guides where all trees within a species are assumed to behave equally across the habitat range and any departures from "normal" tree species behavior is attributed to local site index, and soil variation as a surrogate for an ecological classification system (ECS). It is recommended that an ECS Site Classification worksheet be completed in the field to determine the NPC class and potential crop trees present with excellent or good tree suitability.
  2. Connecting natural stand dynamics to stand prescriptions may save money.
    Current stand conditions and anticipated growth stage are the basic field observations that direct foresters to a set of sustainable management opportunities and limitations. Strategies that use the natural momentum of tree species succession usually meet multiple objectives and are often cheaper to implement. These strategies often involve management actions that require the least amount of silvicultural assistance and financial investment to achieve a desired future condition. This supports an adaptive silviculture approach based upon site assessment and evaluation of all management options prior to timber appraisal and sale design.
    Determining the successional pathway based on the current NPC growth stage can support thoughtful retention strategies which contribute to future stand conditions and potential silvicultural activities beyond commercial timber harvest. In addition to  maintaining wildlife habitat and ecological function, biological legacies provide a future seed source for regeneration, serve as an important source for pollination and contribute to biological and genetic diversity at multiple scales.
How to use this information?

Refer to how to apply NPC silvicultural strategies in forest management to guide you in using this information.

Forested and woodland native plant communities

Information describing native plant communities is found on the web pages below. The information in the Forest Description, Distribution in Minnesota, Vegetation Structure and Composition, and Landscape Setting and Soils sections are as they originally appeared in the Field Guide to the Native Plant Communities of Minnesota. Any changes reflect where new information is available or to update incorrect information.

Acid Peatland Forest System
Fire-Dependent Forest System
Flood Plain Forest System
Forested Rich Peatland System
Mesic Hardwood Forest System
Wet Forest System


We welcome suggestions for improvement or additions to the material. Contact the ECS or Silviculture Program staff for more information.

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