Topic 3: New Techniques and Trends in Silviculture

Background Information

Since the end of the last century, silviculture has experienced unprecedented changes both as a scientific discipline and a forest management tool. Traditional silviculture was built on principles aimed at reducing the complexity of forests in order to obtain maximum timber yield. In order to meet this goal plantings included a limited number of species and only those that had high commercial value. The concepts and techniques developed in agricultural production were used to manage forests. Forest stands were basic managing units and managed with the goal of achieving homogeneous stand structure.

Recent developments in silviculture have changed its focus and principles. Timber production is no longer the primary focus. Maintaining and improving the complexity of structure and the diversity of functions of forests are the new norms. Homogeneous forests produced by traditional silvicultural practices can no longer satisfy society’s needs for multiple ecosystem services. Man-made homogeneity also lowers the resilience of forests and the self-restoring capacities needed for coping with new challenges posed by climate change and globalization. New silvicultural techniques and practices have been developed to promote uneven-aged forests, sustain fire-tolerant forests, conserve biodiversity, and enhance forest carbon sinks.

In summary, silviculturists now realize that forests are complex, self-adapted systems and silvicultural practices should accommodate this complexity. They recognize that sustainability and flexibility are indispensable features of silvicultural practices. These changing attitudes are reflected in the practices and technologies I introduce in my lectures but I encourage you to explore more on your own. The complexity of forests and the multiple needs of society require that foresters have an array of tools at their disposal.

Video Lectures

View the following video lectures:

1.3.1 Overview of new trends in silviculture

1.3.2 Close-to-nature silviculture (I)

1.3.3 Close-to-nature silviculture (II)

1.3.4 Intensive siviculture (I)

1.3.5 Intensive silviculture (II)

1.3.6 Looking forward

Additional Resources

  1. Gamborg, C., & Larsen, J. B. (2003). ‘Back to nature’—a sustainable future for forestry? Forest Ecology and Management, 179(1-3), 559-571. Retrieved from
    This article explains the origin of back to nature silviculture and the various forms of this practice. It also argues that silviculture should balance the needs for commodity and environmental and nature values.
  1. du Toit, B., Smith, C. W., Little, K. M., Boreham, G., & Pallett, R. N. (2010). Intensive, site-specific silviculture: Manipulating resource availability at establishment for improved stand productivity. A review of South African research. Forest Ecology and Management, 259(9), 1836-1845. Retrieved from
    This article does a review on the production of short-rotation woody crops in South Africa. The authors suggest that the effects of management at different stages were cumulative. Thus an integrative package with optimized practices that can maximum productivity should be developed.
  1. Bauhus, J., Puettmann, K., & Messier, C. (2009). Silviculture for old-growth attributes. Forest Ecology and Management, 258(4), 525-537. Retrieved from A presentation by the leading author is available at
    This article discusses the need for maintaining old-growth forests. It also discusses various practices that can be used to maintain the structural and compositional complexity of old-growth forests.

Self-test for Topic 3

Essay Paper:

Write an essay applying silvicultural practices that can improve a forest you love.

Every forest is different. Natural factors (e.g., topography, climate, soils) and socio-economic factors (e.g., human needs for timber and non-timber forest products) shape the structure and function of forests. Silvicultural techniques can be applied in order to manage a forest in a more productive and sustainable ways.

Topic three of Module 1 outlines some of the new practices in silviculture. Think of ways you can apply these new concepts and techniques in with which forests that you are familiar.

Write a three-page essay that includes the following components:

Page 1 Map: a location map of the forest that you are studying. Label the map with coordinates, name of the place and country so people know where your forest is located.

Page 2 Pictures: 3-4 photos of the forest from different angles.

Page 3 Essay: give a concise description of the problems with the forest; suggest possible applications of new silvicultural practices; list the expected outcomes. We encourage you to limit your discussion to one page.

After completing your essay, you should give you completed essay to one or two colleagues who will assess it using the following scale:

5 =Creative and insightful response with an excellent discussion.

4 =Assignment shows insights that go beyond what was expected.

3 =Assignment responds to what was expected and shows an understanding of the subject.

2=Assignment completed satisfactorily.

1 =Assignment submitted but only partially completed.


After formulating your answers, you may post them online at the Knowledge Café for this course as a way to share your ideas and glean knowledge from other students’ responses.