Disturbances and structural development of natural forest ecosystems with silvicultural implications, using Douglas-fir forests as an example

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Forest managers need a comprehensive scientific understanding of natural stand development processes when designing silvicultural systems that integrate ecological and economic objectives, including a better appreciation of the nature of disturbance regimes and the biological legacies, such as live trees, snags, and logs, that they leave behind. Most conceptual forest development models do not incorporate current knowledge of the: (1) complexity of structures (including spatial patterns) and developmental processes; (2) duration of development in long-lived forests; (3) complex spatial patterns of stands that develop in later stages of seres; and particularly (4) the role of disturbances in creating structural legacies that become key elements of the post-disturbance stands. We elaborate on existing models for stand structural development using natural stand development of the Douglas-fir - western hemlock sere in the Pacific Northwest as our primary example; most of the principles are broadly applicable while some processes (e.g. role of epicormic branches) are related to specific species. We discuss the use of principles from disturbance ecology and natural stand development to create silvicultural approaches that are more aligned with natural processes. Such approaches provide for a greater abundance of standing dead and down wood and large old trees, perhaps reducing short-term commercial productivity but ultimately enhancing wildlife habitat, biodiversity, and ecosystem function, including soil protection and nutrient retention. © 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

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Forest Ecology and Management