In early October I took part in Mark Yorke’s practical workshop entitled "Transforming even-aged plantations into diverse and uneven-aged forests and woods. An alternative to clear-felling." The workshop combined classroom teaching with field exercises and discussions on the subject of Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF). It was held in the Chilterns and focussed on broadleaves. My attendance fee for the two and a half day event was paid by Woodland Heritage.
As part of my MSc in Resource Management I have chosen to investigate the role that CCF could play in the future of British forestry. At present UK experience of CCF is rather limited, but interest in the potential for its application is growing rapidly. The common factor in all forms of CCF is the avoidance of clear-felling (i.e. the cutting down of all trees on an area greater than 0.25ha). The types of silvicultural systems commonly used in CCF include single tree selection, group selection, and irregular shelterwood. During the workshop we discussed the relative merits of each of these types of system as well as the species and circumstances to which they are best suited. The field exercises stimulated much debate and highlighted the fact that CCF is not a precise science that prescribes Standardised solutions for any given scenario. In CCF, the ability to respond to changes in the forest (for example to fell selected canopy trees in response to areas of established natural regeneration) is as important as the ability to instigate changes (for example by interventions such as thinning). CCF is most likely to be successful where a manager can take a long term approach and can adapt management plans when necessary as the results of previous treatments become apparent.
In addition to Mark’s teaching and field exercises, two invited speakers shed light on different aspects of CCF. Ralph Harmer of Forest Research led a presentation and discussion session on factors affecting the natural regeneration of broadleaved species. CCF will often only be financially viable where natural regeneration can be relied upon as the primary method of restocking. An understanding of these factors and of how to manipulate them is therefore crucial to the success of CCF.
Rik Pakenham, an independent forestry consultant, illustrated the arguments he uses to persuade his clients to adopt CCF on their land and talked briefly about the issue of certification. Rik also led a field-based discussion on the purpose of monitoring in CCF and explained the methods he uses.
The workshops serve as a very useful introduction to CCF for novices such as myself and provide an arena for discussion for those with more experience. Mark has been running these courses for about 10 years and normally runs several each year at various locations throughout the UK. The workshops cover either broadleaved or coniferous forests, depending on their location (details are on the Continuous Cover Forestry Group website www.ccfg.org.uk).