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Silviculture's Role in Managing Boreal Forests

Russell T Graham, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station
Theresa B Jain, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station

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Abstract

Boreal forests, which are often undeveloped, are a major source of raw materials for many countries. They are circumpolar in extent and occupy a belt to a width of 1000 km in certain regions. Various conifer and hardwood species ranging from true firs to poplars grow in boreal forests. These species exhibit a wide range of shade tolerance and growth characteristics, and occupy different successional positions. The climate is subarctic, with short growing seasons, and the soils are shallow. Both wildfires and timber harvesting play an important role in shaping the structure and composition of boreal forests. Both uneven-aged and even-aged silvicultural systems can be used to produce commercial harvests, but systems can also be designed to meet a variety of other forest management objectives. Wildlife habitat maintenance, water production or conservation, and fire hazard reduction are only some of the objectives for which silvicultural systems can be designed. Coarse wood debris, snags, shrubs, canopy layers, and species composition are examples of forest attributes that can be managed using silvicultural systems. Systems can be designed to sustain predator habitat, yet provide a continual production of wood products. Uneven-aged systems tend to favor the regeneration and development of shade-tolerant species, whereas even-aged systems tend to favor shade-intolerant species. These systems and all of their permutations can create and maintain a suite of different stand compositions and structures that can be used to meet a wide variety of management objectives.

Key words

boreal forest, even-aged stands, forest composition, forest management, forest structure, global timber markets, silvicultural systems, subarctic, uneven-aged stands.
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087