Managed Forests

Authored by: Jürgen Bauhus , Patrick Pyttel

Routledge Handbook of Forest Ecology

Print publication date:  October  2015
Online publication date:  October  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415735452
eBook ISBN: 9781315818290
Adobe ISBN: 9781317816447


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Most forests of the world have been altered by humans for long periods of time. They have always been used to fulfil our needs for fuel, construction timber, food, fibre, and medicine. However, traditional forest management in the sense of regulating and manipulating the structure and composition of forests to meet the demands for chiefly timber and woody biomass is a relatively recent phenomenon that started ca. 300 years ago in central Europe (von Carlowitz 1713). More recently, only a few decades ago, this was expanded to supply, explicitly, also other ecosystem goods and services. In Europe, modern forest management approaches developed as consequence of previously unregulated forest exploitation for the industrial use of timber. Back in times when wood was the only widely available source of energy, large quantities of it were used for charcoal, to melt glass and metals, and for heating. Because the early industries depended on wood as source of energy, vast stretches of forest were felled to fuel these industries (Sands 2005). The realization that economic and social development could not continue with this unsustainable exploitation led to the first attempts to re-establish and manage forests (von Carlowitz 1713). The foundation of the first institutions teaching forestry and forest science also date back to this time (Sands 2005). Owing to the widespread devastation of forests in central Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, early forest management mainly focused on the regeneration and re-establishment of forests. The harsh environment that young trees face when growing in open conditions, characterized by extreme temperatures, degraded soils, competition through herbs, grass, and shrubs, as well as browsing pressure through domestic and wild animals, only allowed tough tree species to be successfully regenerated. This triggered the wide scale establishment of conifer plantations mainly comprised of Norway spruce (Picea abies) and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris). In addition, these species were easy to propagate in nurseries; they were fast growing and promised early yields. The restoration of landscapes with these plantations was so successful, mainly economically but also with regard to other ecosystem functions, that this model of forest management was adopted in many parts of the world. This explains why, even today, forests in Europe are still dominated by secondary conifer plantations, where natural forests of broadleaved tree species (e.g. European beech [Fagus sylvatica], oak [Quercus robur, Quercus petraea]) would occur. This approach to forest management that developed when forestry originated as a discipline was modelled on agricultural cultivation methods and therefore represented the complete opposite of the unregulated exploitation that prevailed before then (Puettmann et al. 2009). The similarity of the terms agriculture and silviculture shows this close relationship; forest land was being regarded as a field cultivated with trees. The concept of forest management followed at that time was the so-called ‘regular forest’ (Normalwald in German) (Hundeshagen 1826; see Figure 6.1). The regular forest represents an idealized forest management unit, with an even distribution of age classes, established as high forests, which provides the same, sustainable yield of timber every year. If the production cycle extended to X years to grow all the timber of the desired dimensions, then a fraction of the total production area Y that is equivalent to Y/X would be harvested and regenerated every year.

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