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Silvicultural Systems


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A silvicultural system is a planned program of silvicultural treatments designed to achieve specific stand structure characteristics to meet site objectives during the whole life of a stand.  This program of treatments integrates specific harvesting, regeneration and stand tending methods to achieve a predicable yield of benefits from the stand over time. The names for different silvicultural systems are typically based on the principal method of regeneration and the desired age structure such as single-tree and group selection, shelterwood and irregular "partial retention" cuts.  

Clearcutting has been the most used silvicultural system in B.C. over the last hundred years.  But as the demand increases for multiple forest resources, foresters in BC are using a greater variety of silvicultural systems.  This is providing greater diversity in forest structures which are critical for ensuring multiple resource management; examples include continuous cover for landscape visual quality and migration corridors, large live and dead reserve trees to encourage biodiversity, and optimal opening sizes for watersheds.


A silvicultural system generally has the following basic goals:

  • Provides for the availability of many forest resources (not just timber) through spatial and temporal distribution.
  • Produces planned harvests of forest products over time.
  • Accomodates biological/ecological and economic concerns to ensure suitability of resources.
  • Provides for regeneration and planned seral stage development.
  • Effectively uses growing space and productivity to produce desired goods, services and conditions.
  • Meets the landscape- and stand-level goals and objectives of the landowner (including allowing for a variety of future management options).
  • Considers and attempts to minimize risks from stand-damaging agents such as insects, disease and windthrow.

For more information about Silvicultural Systems and their implementation in B.C., please see the Silvicultural Systems Handbook (7.25 MB)


Silvicultural Systems Research

The recent move away from the predominant use of the clearcutting systems in B.C. has led to a need for further research.  Implementing silvicultural systems other than clearcutting can be more difficult for several reasons. For example, our legacy of information and experience is smaller for most forest types in B.C. There are also risks associated with partial cutting, such as exacerbation of windthrow and pest problems and a tendency to remove only the highest dollar-value trees (high grading). Furthermore, we are not always certain what forest structures will best suit our objectives; where we do have clear stand structure goals, we are often uncertain how to produce them in a manner that is sustainable for the diversity of stand types and sites in our province.

Hence, there are many important forest management questions to be addressed concerning the impacts of various silvicultural systems on planning, application, economics, engineering, inventory, timber supply, and non-timber resources. Many questions come down to the need to improve our understanding of tree reproduction and growth under various partial cutting regimes and our ability to predict how partially cut stands will develop over time. In pursuit of these and related objectives, the Ministry of Forests Research Program is leading or participating in a variety of silvicultural systems experimental projects (EPs), special field studies, model development and reviews of available information.

Experimental Projects - Coast

EP Title # Inst. Year Establ.
1213 Silvicultural Treatments for Ecosystem Management in the Sayward (STEMS). 1  


Experimental Projects - Interior

EP Title # Inst. Year Establ.
370 Partial Cutting Experiment in an Interior Wet-belt Type (Kootenay Forest District): a field experiment established in 1957 to look at different approaches to single-tree selection in a mixed-species forest of the ICH zone. 1 1952
987.04 Growth Following Selection Harvesting of Dry-belt Douglas-fir (Vernon Forest District): a field experiment established in 1993 to measure growth and yield of IDFdk2 stands cut to a range of stand structures and residual basal area. 1 1992


Silvicultural Systems Publications

Bealle Statland, C. and W.D. Johnstone. 2004. Natural regeneration 10 years after partial cutting in a dry-belt interior Douglas-fir stand. B.C. Ministry of Forests, Victoria. Extension Note 68.

de Montigny, L.E. 2004. Silviculture treatments for ecosystem management in the Sayword (STEMS): establishment report for STEMS 1, Snowden Demonstration Forest. B.C. Ministry of Forests, Victoria. Technical Report 017.

Fraser, A.R. 1949. Development of the lodgepole-pine types in the north-central interior following selective cutting for railroad ties. B.C. Ministry of Forests, Victoria. Research Note 16.

Johnstone, W.D. 2002. Growth and development following partial cutting of a complex stand in the interior cedar-hemlock zone of British Columbia: 40-year results. B.C. Ministry of Forests, Victoria. Research Report 22.

Thompson, C.F. 1977. Partial cutting in a mixed wet-belt type. B.C. Ministry of Forests, Victoria. Research Note 78.

Other Silvicultural Systems Field Projects

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Last Modified: 2007 APR 20.  Ministry contact: Frank van Thienen