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Woodland design: creation, felling and replanting

3.4Silvicultural systems
3.4.1

Requirement

An appropriate silvicultural system shall be adopted which is designed to meet the management objectives and which stipulates soundly-based planting, establishment, thinning, felling and regeneration plans.

Where there is a range of options in windfirm conifer plantations, lower impact silvicultural systems shall be increasingly favoured where they are suited to the site and species.

Means of verification

  • Management planning documentation
  • Discussions with the owner/manager
  • Field observations.

Guidance

The choice of silvicultural system should take into account:

  • Silvicultural characteristics of the species
  • Site limitations including potential growth rates and wind firmness
  • Intended stem size and quality
  • Current and future markets for timber products
  • Impacts on the landscape and wildlife
  • Age-structure and felling plan of nearby woodlands
  • Ecological processes and natural disturbance regime for that woodland type
  • Future resilience
  • Historical management practices
  • Views of local people.

The establishment of research trials or plots to assess the suitability of species, origins and provenances and/or silvicultural systems including management and protection treatments should be undertaken only in the context of a research policy and conform to the spirit of the certification standard.

Thinning, felling and regeneration plans should cover:

  • Felling age or size
  • Thinning type, intensity and frequency
  • Species preferences and selection criteria
  • Means of regeneration and desired species composition
  • Scale of operations and rate of application (i.e. areas and time periods).

Lower impact systems can include:

  • Group selection
  • Shelterwood or under-planting
  • Small coupe felling systems
  • Coppice or coppice with standards
  • Minimum intervention
  • Single tree selection systems.

Use of lower impact silvicultural systems in windfirm plantations may not be appropriate where there is evidence that clearfelling provides habitat that has a high value for biodiversity.

Species and habitats which might justify such high-impact felling will normally be those included in UK Biodiversity Action Plans (HAPs and SAPs) or other widely recognised biodiversity priorities.

3.4.2

Requirement

Felling and restocking shall be in accordance with the principles and guidelines set out in the UK Forestry Standard and supporting guidelines series, including those on soils and water.

Where site factors favour coupe sizes over 5 ha in lowland plantations and 20 ha in upland plantations, all felling and restocking shall be in accordance with a felling design plan if these thresholds are exceeded.

The rate of felling shall be subject to the following condition: in plantations over 20 ha, no more than 25% is felled in any five-year period unless all felling and restocking is based on a felling design plan.

Means of verification

  • Management planning documentation
  • Discussions with the owner/manager
  • Design plan.

Guidance

Design plans should ensure that in large even-aged plantations the woodland improves in age structure through:

  • Prescribing felling that is spread over a period of at least 20 years
  • Prescribing restocking which will provide options for further diversification and reduction in clearfell size at the end of the next rotation.

Site factors favouring larger coupe sizes might include:

  • Windthrow risk
  • Landscape scale
  • Current plantation design
  • Historic environment features
  • Wildlife habitats.
3.4.3

Requirement

In semi-natural woodland (as defined in the glossary) lower impact systems shall be adopted as specified in the UK Forestry Standard. All felling shall be in accordance with the specific guidance for that type of native woodland in the relevant Forestry Commission Practice Guide.

In semi-natural woodlands over 10 ha, no more than 10% shall be felled in any five-year period unless justified in terms of biodiversity enhancement or lower impact.

Means of verification

  • Management planning documentation
  • Discussions with the owner/manager
  • Field observations.

Guidance

Lower impact systems can include:

  • Group selection
  • Shelterwood or under-planting
  • Small coupe felling systems
  • Coppice or coppice with standards
  • Minimum intervention
  • Single tree selection systems.

For areas with UKBAP priority habitats and species, consider consulting with relevant species and habitat experts in statutory conservation agencies or NGOs.