“Silviculture” is the science and practice of perpetuating forests by growing trees on a large scale (that is, not a single tree, but rather growing whole “stands” of trees).  Different methods of growing timber stands can be divided into “selection” and “even aged” methods.  In selection harvesting, individual trees or small groups (up to 2 ½ acres) of trees are cut.  New trees are established by natural seeding into the openings created by this cutting, maintaining a forest that is a mix of trees of different age and size classes.  In even aged harvesting, trees are removed in larger areas (typically 15 to 20 acres) so that a new stand of trees that are all about the same age is created.  Foresters often plant trees to create these new stands, although seeding by trees left for that purpose is possible.

Other cutting methods, such as commercial thinning of trees to improve spacing and maintain growth, and “sanitation-salvage” harvesting of dead, dying, and diseased trees, are considered “intermediate” or maintenance harvests, not designed to establish a new timber stand.

The following table provides a brief description of the attributes of different silvicultural methods:


Attribute Single Tree Selection Group Selection Seed Tree Shelterwood Clearcut
Ease of establishment of new trees Difficult Difficult Varied w/ natural regen; good if planted Varied w/ natural regen; good if planted Good
Site Prep Needed? None None Usually Usually Usually
$$ invested Little Little Moderate Moderate High
Short term disturbance Low Moderate Mod to high Mod to high High
Long-term disturbance Moderate Moderate Low Low Low
Roads needed High High Moderate Moderate Moderate
Utilized in CA? Often Seldom Seldom Seldom Often
Control of growth factors (spacing) None Little Good if planted Good if planted Good


A downloadable PDF of the Intro to Silviculture page is available by clicking here