Introduction to Silvicultural Systems


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BC Ministry of Forests
Forest Practices Branch
Victoria, BC

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1 Definition of a Silvicultural System 4 The Decision Process Appendix 1 Answer Key
2 Major Types of Systems 5 There's More to Learn Appendix 2 Advantages and Disadvantages
3 Variations of Major Types 6 Implementation Appendix 3 References

Introduction to Silvicultural Systems

Silvicultural systems are the essence of a silviculture prescription, providing a long-term planning perspective at the stand level and a foundation for building aprescription. They are legislated in the Forest Practices Code of British Columbia Act and the regulations and standards enabled by the Code. A well-designed silvicultural system is a complex integration of both the art and science of forestry, and reflects an understanding of ecological relationships, long-term desires of the landowner, operational realities, and a creative spirit of innovation and discovery.

The first challenge for practitioners inexperienced with various silvicultural systems is to determine the full range of choices available, and to sort through the confusing use and misuse of terminology. This workbook is designed to provide practitioners in British Columbia with a common background in silvicultural systems; and to promote consideration of the full range of silvicultural systems and consistency in silvicultural systems terminology.

Note that this publication is only intended to ground you in the fundamental silvicultural systems concepts. This is not a cookbook. As you will see, silvicultural systems cannot be selected "ready-made" from a book. Instead, they must be tailored to each stand. However, understanding these general terms and categories of systems is a useful starting point.

The general objectives of this workbook are:

  • To encourage use of consistent terminology for silvicultural systems and improve the general understanding of the objectives and complexities of each system.
  • To encourage consideration of the full range of silvicultural systems in a pre-harvest plan (silviculture prescription in British Columbia).
  • To encourage site-specific application of silvicultural systems using current knowledge and careful consideration of all resource objectives at the stand and landscape levels.

This workbook was designed to assist both students in learning about silvicultural systems and field practitioners who wish to review the basic concepts of silvicultural systems.

Using the Workbook

This workbook is divided into two parts. Part 1 deals with the definitions, terminology, and functions of the various silvicultural systems. Part 2 deals with decision-making procedures.

Each part is organized into chapters, each with its own set of learning objectives. Throughout the chapters you will find activities, case studies, marginal notes, and a "what have you learned?" section. These sections will aid in reinforcing concepts and terms.


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The activities are designed to integrate the theory of silvicultural systems with your experiences in the field. These activities are designed to encourage critical thinking by expanding on certain aspects of silvicultural systems that deserve closer attention. Selecting an Activity icon will link you to the Activity related to the topics being discussed.

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Case Studies
The case studies allow you to apply what you have learned to a specific situation. These cases are simple and focus on a specific issue. While they may not apply directly to all portions of the province, the case studies will reflect an issue that could be found somewhere in British Columbia, and will expand your understanding of silvicultural systems. Selecting a Case Study icon will link you to the Case Study related to the topics being discussed.

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Sad But True
These vignettes are simply intended to show how things can go wrong. They are based entirely or partially on real-life experiences. Learn from the mistakes of others: it makes life a lot easier. Selecting a Sad But True icon will link you to the vignette related to the topics being discussed.

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What Have You Learned?
The questions in this section, which appear at the end of each chapter, will reinforce and review key concepts. Discussing these questions with colleagues may help extend your knowledge even further. The answers to these review questions can easily be found by re-reading the corresponding chapter in the workbook. Selecting the Quiz Time icon will link you to the set of questions for that chapter.

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Side Bar Notes
The side bar quotes -- designed to provoke thought and round out discussions -- include quotes from the literature, statistics, opinions, observations, and suggestions.


The Forest Practices Branch thanks the many persons, groups, and agencies who have contributed to this self-study workbook.

Ken Zielke and Bryce Bancroft (Symmetree Consulting Group) wrote and Soren Henrich (Soren Henrich Design and Illustration) illustrated the first edition of this workbook. Mel Scott, Nancy Densmore, Rob Bowden and John Harkema of the Forest Practices Branch, Ministry of Forests reviewed the second edition of the workbook.

Rosalind Penty copy edited and TM Communications designed and produced the final layout for this revised edition.

Forest Practices Branch

Please note that due to the large number of graphics used in this site, some sections will load more slowly than others. Please be patient.

This website is based on the published workbook: Introduction to Silvicultural Systems, second edition (July 1999).

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