Foresters and other natural resource managers work with succession in managing the forest for diverse benefits. Forested stands, ranging in size from less than 3 acres to hundreds of acres, can be treated in a number of ways to reach management goals.
A stand is most easily managed by allowing it to succeed toward longer-lived climax species. If a late successional cover type is the goal for a site, the extent and severity of disturbances should be minimized by not clear-cutting or creating large gaps. Instead, individual trees are selected for harvest (all-aged management).
Natural resource managers can modify or direct succession by controlling species vigor and composition and the types and frequencies of disturbances. This is the basic premise of silviculture.
- To stall succession, partial cuts or disturbances that affect over 30 percent of the stand are used.
- To keep pioneer species such as aspen on the site, major disturbances such as clear-cuts are needed to create a new stand of young trees (even-aged management).
- To keep specific species such as oak or pine on the site, minor disturbances such as partial cuts and shelterwoods are used to remove groups of trees.
Whether the goal is to encourage succession or stall it, foresters always consider regeneration as they select an appropriate harvest prescription. In some cases, the stand is not ready to be renewed and will only be thinned. In other cases, the harvest is planned to establish seedlings on an ongoing basis. In either situation, the stand might be regenerated through natural or artificial means
In developing a management prescription for a stand being examined, the forester takes into account the entire forest's management goals, the stand's condition, cover-type management guidelines, and any factors that are unique to the site or stand that need to be handled differently. It is a complex process.
Stand prescriptions can range from:
- The stand has unique characteristics and should be reserved.
- The stand should be managed through an even-aged regeneration harvest.
- The stand should be managed through an all-aged harvest.
Learn more about stand prescriptions.
When harvesting is done, site-level forest management guidelines are followed so the site continues to contribute to sustaining forest resources such as water quality, wildlife habitat, and soil stability.