Harvesting Methods

pineIn managing southern pines for timber, we are usually working with even-aged stands. In this type of silvicultural system, harvesting is the method of removing products from a forest to make room for a new generation of trees.

For more information, see our Uneven-aged Management and Even- vs. Uneven-Aged Reproduction Methods page.

See our Harvesting Operations & Timber Sales for additional information.

Clearcutting

Clearcutting reproduces a new even-aged stand by completely removing the mature stand.

Clearcutting as a silvicultural treatment has several characteristics: 

  • it causes a sudden environmental change
  • it removes the seed source from the regeneration area
  • the configuration of the clearcut may affect seed dispersal
  • it begins a new rotation
  • it will eliminate some pests that require forest cover
  • overall, it temporarily removes the forest cover, transforming the forest community and environment.

Clearcutting followed by artificial (seeded or planted) regeneration has several advantages:

  • we can avoid delay in restocking the site
  • we can introduce a selected species, seed source, and genotype
  • we can control arrangement and spacing
  • we can achieve uniformity in the new stand
  • we can overcome the problems associated with securing sufficient natural regeneration.

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Shelterwood Method

The shelterwood method involves the removal of most of the mature stand at the end of the rotation, but a portion of the mature stand is left standing.  The shelterwood method serves three basic purposes:

  1. To prepare the stand for production of abundant seed
  2. To modify the environment in a way that promotes germination and survival of the selected species
  3. To build up the amount and size of advance regeneration to ensure the prompt restocking of the new stand following overstory removal.

The shelterwood method involves a sequence of 3 cuttings:

  1. Preparatory Cuttings: make the seed trees more vigorous and set the stage for regeneration. See our Thinning page for more information.
  2. Establishment/Seed Cuttings: open up enough vacant growing space to allow establishment of the new regeneration.
  3. Removal Cuttings: uncover the new crop to allow it to fill the growing space.

The residual trees in the shelterwood must:

  • be sturdy and windfirm
  • be able to survive exposure
  • flower and reproduce seed
  • be the best trees of the mature stand

Keep in mind that the shelter trees must not occupy the entire site.  A void must be created in order to make room for the new regeneration. The amount of shelter to leave will depend on the following factors:

  • species characteristics (seeding and shelter requirements)
  • the number of cuttings in the cutting sequence (1, 2, or 3)
  • landowner objectives
  • the size of the area to be regenerated
  • the final removal harvest level required to be profitable

The shelter must be removed before it impedes the growth of the new stand or threatens its survival.

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Seed Tree Method

The seed tree method is similar to the shelterwood method in that we are removing most of the mature overstory and leaving a portion standing.  However, the seed tree method leaves only a few residuals as a seed source only. The residuals from this cut are too few and scattered to provide shelter. 

A seed tree cut will introduce environmental changes similar to those of clearcutting.  This type of cut will provide some opportunity to influence seed source through the selection of the seed trees.

The residual trees of a seed tree cut must:

  • be genetically superior trees of the selected species (dominants).
  • be sturdy and windfirm
  • be able to survive exposure
  • flower and produce abundant seed
  • be the VERY BEST trees of the mature stand - these will be your only hope for the future.

The number of seed trees to leave will depend on the following factors:

  • the amount of seed each tree provides
  • the expected survival of germinated seed
  • the size of the area to be regenerated

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Environmental Considerations

You may harvest a part of or all of your forest land only once or twice in your lifetime, but the visual disturbance caused by harvesting may make some people uncomfortable.  Some may believe that a disturbance of this magnitude (i.e., a clearcut) may lead to environmental degradation. Often, this belief is more a perception of sight and emotions rather than true environmental degradation.

Forest landowners have the opportunity to reduce the visual disruption caused by forest harvesting and to maintain the environmental integrity and aesthetic appeal of their lands

Additional Resources

Florida Forestry Information

University of Florida Extension Publication

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